NYU professors work to improve sex talks between fathers and sons

Two NYU professors have received a $4 million federal grant for their project to create communication between fathers and sons to improve sexual health in disadvantaged communities.

Vincent Guilamo-Ramos and James Jaccard, the professors working on the project and both co-directors of the Center for Latino and Adolescent Family Health, believe that the most effective way to reduce sexual health risks is by enhancing paternal influence in the lives of adolescent boys. In an effort to improve this father-son communication, the professors will be using the grant to further “Fathers Raising Responsible Men,” a project focused on productive discussion between fathers and their sons.  

Awarded the funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Adolescent Health, Guilamo-Ramos and Jaccard plan to use this grant over a period of five years. Their services will focus on Latino and African American adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19, fostering father-son discussion about safe sexual practices. The professors hope that these discussions lead adolescents to make more educated and safe decisions about their sexual lives.

“The overall goal of the five-year project is to develop a science-proven tool that can be used nationally to help reduce teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in disadvantaged communities nationally,” Ramos said.

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Emily Fernandez, a first-year student at the College of Nursing, voiced her support for a project that fosters more helpful communication between fathers and sons.

“While teenagers really dread the idea of the ‘the talk’ with their parents, it’s important to at least bring it up because it sucks to be that kid that has to figure it out yourself,” Fernandez said. “By having this talk, you can make sure your child knows all the right facts and the options that are available to them.”

The professors’ work has reached beyond their target audience, with their research having influenced several other scholars of child and familial development, including Darcey Merritt, an assistant professor of social work at the Silver School of Social Work.

“I expect their findings to be useful to my work because it includes parents in discussions about optimal child rearing practices, which is a component of my research focused on parental challenges,” Merritt said. “The work being conducted by Doctors Ramos and Jaccard is compelling in that it encourages fathers to take an active responsibility in strengthening their relationships with their sons. Rarely are fathers called to task for certain aspects of parental guidance, the onus usually falls on the mothers.”

William Goedel, a junior B.A. Candidate in Global Public Health/Sociology, said he believes parents can often fill in the gaps in the sexual education teens may or may not be getting in school.

“I think this is an incredibly important first step — making parents (especially fathers) better equipped to have these types of conversations with their teens can hopefully have a huge impact on their teens’ behaviors,” Goedel said.

The base for this project will be located in the Bronx, where over the next few years Ramos and Jaccard will develop a combination of seminars, homework assignments and face-to-face interventions with specialists to effectively improve adolescent risk behavior.

“For us, the FRRM project marks a significant opportunity to make a major difference for young people of color facing major challenges at a critical moment in their lives,” Ramos said.

Email Ankita Bhanot at [email protected]

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Mr. Guilamo-Ramos as Roman. The article has been updated to correct this inaccuracy.

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