Demographic Factors Associated with Parents’ Knowledge About Sexually Transmitted Infections




Johnson, Kaeli
Kinard, Ashlyn
Lemuz, Tiffany
Terrillion, Ryan
Griner, Stacey


Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Purpose: Gender roles are usually discussed in the context of socialization, however, this can be extended to other facets of behavior, such as compliance with treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STI). Because of this, many times the burden of STI testing and relaying information to partners is left to women. Similarly, within traditional nuclear families, gender roles and norms create expectations for family members, but especially parents. For example, maternal roles often include tending to the children and home, while paternal roles usually include being a provider for the family. Though our current society continues to transform these gendered norms, some of these gender roles still linger. Because of this, it is expected to see these gender norms and roles reflected in knowledge about STIs. Other demographic factors such as race, age, and education level may have an impact on knowledge acquired about STIs. The purpose of this study was to explore the demographic factors, including gender, associated with parental knowledge of STIs.

Methods: We recruited parents of children aged 10-17 (n=230) via Centiment, an online survey panel. We assessed STI knowledge using a 27-item validated knowledge scale that included true and false statements. The scale included questions about Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-2), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and Hepatitis B. An example of a question included was Genital herpes is caused by the same virus as HIV. Parents indicated their response (true/false/don’t know) and answers were coded (incorrect/correct). Incorrect answers were coded as 0, correct answers were coded as 1, and "don’t know” responses were automatically considered incorrect. There were 27 possible points based on the validated scale. Demographic questions included gender, age, race, parental STI history, and highest level of education. Descriptive statistics, univariate, and bivariate analyses were conducted in SPSS. A p-value of p < .05 was considered statistically significant.

Results: The average knowledge score was 12.5 (SD=6.2, range 0-27). Knowledge score was not correlated with parent age (p=.62) or child age (p=.43). There were no significant associations between knowledge and parent gender (p=.06), parent race (p=.70), parent education level (p=.47), child gender (p=.08), or child race (p=.59). However, 28% of parents reported a history of an STI, and knowledge score was significantly different among those with an STI history (14.5) compared to those without (11.6; p=.001).

Conclusions: We noted a significant difference in STI knowledge based on STI history. This is expected as those who have had experience with STIs and STI treatment would have increased knowledge about them. However, average knowledge scores were low overall, with no significant differences across several different demographic factors. This emphasizes a need for better sexual education across the life course. This also displays a need for targeted interventions to increase STI awareness and knowledge among parents, in general. Future studies should assess the specific gaps in STI knowledge among older adults and how sexual education information can be disseminated to this age group.