The parents aged 30 to 53 years, and their educational level varied from high school to master. They have governmental or self-employed jobs.
Eighteen sub-categories, five main categories, and eventually a theme emerged from 73 codes by analyzing parents' experiences and perceptions, and adopted strategies by parents for the sexuality upbringing of adolescent boys (Table 1).
Table 1. Parents' strategies for sexuality upbringing of adolescent boys
1. Unobvious monitoring
2. Restricting access to sexual information
3. Controlling and restricting relationships
4. Silence and dodge
5. Avoiding extreme limitations
Control, monitoring and restriction
struggling to bridge the inter-generation gap
1. Deviating adolescents' thoughts from the sexual instinct
2 Trying to inhibit sexual orientations and experiences
3. Resorting to the religion as a lever
4. Learning and warning
Abstinence as the main content of sexual upbringing
1. Avoiding violent behavior
2. Empathy and intimacy with adolescents
3. A hopeful look at puberty changes
Endeavoring for peace and tolerance
1. Criticism of cultural taboos
2. Trying to desensitize the sexual issues
3. Empowerment instead of limitations
Criticizing the pathologic attitude to sexual instinct
1. Self-modeling for adolescents
2. Metaphorical education
3. Optimism about the adequacy of deterrent boundaries
Hope for social learning
1. Control, monitoring and restriction
The main approachof most parents involved in the sexuality upbringing of boys was to take supervisory action and attempt to limit their access to sexual information.Parents perform controlling functions through tangible and intangible monitoring ways in receiving sexual information, controlling and limiting communication and monitoring interaction with peers of the same and opposite sex.Acknowledging the inefficiency of adolescent restriction, they consider the communication technology in the sexuality upbringing of boys as an important negative factor as it makesmonitoring and restriction of adolescents difficult for parents; hence, they do not consider sexuality upbringing limited to parents.
"In my opinion, there is no to close the adolescents' access to sexual information, and it is almost impossible. They can do everything by their cellphones, and read and see sexual matters in most precise details with photos and videos" (p. 4, 40-year-old father).
However, other parents believe that extreme restraint leads to adolescents' secrecy and cause irreparable harm:
"Any extreme pressure and limitation will undoubtedly have a reverse effect and makes the explosion of this need in a much worse and dangerous way. I think that we should have the internet, satellite, mobile, and even girl-friend, but with repeated reminders of dangers and remote control". (p.4,40-year-old)
Parents' reaction to their children's sexual questions was silence and duplication by referring teenager to another parent or giving unrealistic and childish responses or delaying until adulthood.
- Abstinence as the main content of sexual upbringing
Most parents tried to deviate their children's thoughts from sexual issues by forcing them to focus on lessons or sports activities in an effort to inhibit adolescents' sexual desire.According to parents' opinion, sexual relationship before marriage was sexual deviationand promiscuity,thus they should learn how to abstain until marriage.The educational process of most parents was to inhibit the instinctive desire inadolescents, warning, teaching, and advising on the negative consequences of sexual conduct in adolescence.Parents warn about adolescent false attachment, the loss of focus on their lessons and their future, negative psychological effects of watching porn movies, and the pathogenicity ofmasturbation.Parents were pessimistic about friendship with the opposite sex, and they considered it as an introduction to illegitimate sex. This belief could be found in all of their sentences:
"It's not just a matter of friendship. I feel they are seeking the real sex and they easily sleep with their girlfriends". (p4,40-year-old)
"I completely disagree with relationships between girls and boys at this age; and my son knows if he makes mistakes, how I can react to him. When we watch TV series or movies about problems of street friendship for families. I emphasize it in front of my children to be aware and if they have untimely sexual matters, it will end in the misdirection and even scandal". (p3, 43-year-oldfather)
Religious parents also resorted to religion in their efforts to inhibit adolescent sexuality orientations and considered virtue as an important factor in adolescent self-control.
"Nothing like prayer can prevent deviations of youth. I try to encourage children to pray even by force (he laughs). I do not let them cut off their relationships with Quran and mosque. Children are always present in the religious ceremonies of our relatives. (p3, 43-year-oldfather).
- Endeavoring for peace and tolerance
In contrast, some parents believed that empathy, positive and hopefulimpressions of physical/emotional changes of puberty, as well as the avoidance of violent behavior could effectively control the sexual behavior in adolescents.In their view, the empathy with adolescents built mutual trust with parents as an important factor in adolescent adherence to family values.
"His mother saw in his cellphone that he had exchanged sexual messages and pictures with a girl. We logically tried to explain to him that it was very wrong. That's it! I told her that it's too dangerous and can go both of you to hell. I talked to her more intimately. I saw that he was so scared. I said: “no problem! I understand. These tendencies are natural. I was the same as you when I was young”. He apologized and it ended". (p4,40-year-old)
- Criticizing the pathologic attitude to sexual instinct
The knowledgeable parents had positive attitudes towards sexuality and tried to pass this era of their son's development and growth by desensitizing sexual issues and considering their behavioral changes asnormal matters.Criticizing the negative attitude towards sexuality in the Iranian culture and referring to its destructive effects on sexual relations in the future of marriage the parents believed that the sexuality should not be neglected or suppressed, but it should be considered with a more open mind and we should try to positively lead it instead of radical restrictions.
"Sexual issues are not all negative, they should not be considered as taboos. It makes the issue more complicated. In Iran, sexual matters have been negatively considered. The current culture makes our kids non-informed and non-properly trained, and finally, they do not fully enjoy sexual matters due to their fear. We can emphasize positive, enjoyable and vital aspects of sexuality". (p4, 40-year-old).
Some parents know about the importance of providing an appropriate sexual education context as its basic prerequisite.For example, they cangive the teenager the courage to express sexual issues by creating intimacy with them or talk about privacy in jokes in order to create sexual communication.
"I tell him: naughty! you have spent an hour in front of the mirror, do have you a date today? (with a smile). It gives him courage and makes intimacy little by little. So, if he had a relationship with someone or had any problem, I know what to do, and he can tell me about it".(p2,38-year-old father)
Some parents believed that the desensitization of communication with the opposite sex would lead to the normal assumption of sexual tendencies which unlike its perception could result in delayed sexual experience in adolescents.Therefore, they allowed experiencing first communication with the opposite sex under parental supervision.
"I do not want the communication with the opposite sex to be a taboo and inaccessible and special issue for him. That's too bad. He thinks that it definitely has special things that should be explored on his own. I think that assuming it as a normal issue can help him to continue the same for more years, and then he can directly experience it". (p5, 42-year-old mother)
"Resistance and complaining about this issue lead to no result. Therefore, if he went to military service and university, he will be "Superficial" and immediately falls in love if he faces a girl’s coquetry. If I allow my son to experience everything at home, it will have better result and my concern will be also less" (p2, 38-year-oldfather)
Referring to the impossibility of a complete restriction of adolescents, especially boys, parents believed that instead of limiting interactions that were ineffective or low-effective in today's society, they should empower teenagers to reduce their vulnerability. They considered it as a kind of child immunization to protect against the dangers of society.
"I like to make him a bit free, that is, if he probably gains some dangerous or inappropriate things, I will consider it as a vaccine that can immunize him against bigger storms". (53-year-old father)
- Hope for social learning
It is worth mentioning that even some educated parents, who have allocated sex education to natural movement, hope for social learning.
"I have tried to let him gain this information naturally, through his dispersed findings. I gave him freedom, but I have also monitored him. I was probably wrong, but as I learned it (sexuality) from nobody and gradually learned it from the social environment, especially university, I think this option is appropriate. It means giving freedom to children by the natural and controlled way, especially nowadays that there are social networks". (53-year-old father)
In their opinion, in families with ethical values and controlled adolescent relationships,it is not a major concern even if they do not directly talk about sexual education:
"The reason why I left my son's education in this field is that, given the safe atmosphere in the family, I have the peace of mind that he will safely pass this crisis since it had happened to me and made no problem for me. I partially trust him as I knew his personality. His connection with the outside is limited to a few friends, so it is not a concern for me or at least I am optimistic" (53-year-oldfather)
Emphasizing on the educational effect of parents' behavior on adolescents' behavior, some parents tried to be a model for their adolescents, especially in social interactions with the opposite sex:
"I want my son to imitate me as much as possible not anyone else. I have seen the impact of this behavior on my son. If I model myself, I would better affect him". (p4,40-year-old)
Parents preferred metaphorical and indirect education to direct discussion of sexual issues.For instance, teaching to respect individual privacy as a metaphor for the existence of private relationships.From their point of view, this privacy created a sense of sexual security.
"We taught him how to respect people's privacy from childhood, that women and men may have privacy issues. In contrast, when we knocked at the door of his room, it respects his dignity and he feels safe if he has something in his privacy". (p5, 42-year-old mother)
None of the parents referred to books or any kind of education about the sexual upbringing of their children.This issue reflects the neglect of parent education in this regard.
"Unfortunately, because we are not trained in this field, I do not know what the ideal way is. Should the family play a 100% role? Is it 50-50 between school and family? Is it possible by referring a teenager to read a book? I have not seen any book in this field. I am almost illiterate in this regard. I have a big question in my mind that what the ideal approach is? Perhaps, there is no a single ideal approach".(p5, 53-year-oldfather)