Engaging parents in digital sexual and reproductive health education: A UK-wide cluster randomised controlled trial with process evaluation

Aine Aventin*, Aisling Gough, Theresa McShane, Katie Gillespie, Liam O'Hare, Honor Young, Ruth Lewis, Emily Warren, Kelly Buckley, Maria Lohan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Objectives Research supports the central role that parents play in promoting positive sexual behaviour and outcomes in their children, however, they can be very difficult to engage in school-delivered sexual and reproductive health (SRH) programmes. Online and mobile technologies (OMTs) that educate parents about SRH and promote parent-child communication may offer an innovative solution to reaching parents, but there remains insufficient evidence regarding the acceptability and feasibility of these methods. This study aimed to address this gap by reporting parent engagement with co-produced online animated films during a school-based randomised trial.
Methods The Jack Trial is a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded cluster randomised controlled trial involving over 8000 adolescents (mean age 14.4), teachers and parents from 66 post-primary schools across the UK. It aims to determine the effectiveness of a multi-component, theory-informed SRH intervention in reducing unprotected sex in adolescents. An embedded mixed-methods process evaluation explored user engagement with the parental components. Across the UK, a total of 110 adolescents, teachers, parents and policy experts took part in semi-structured interviews and focus groups, 134 parents responded to online surveys and 3289 adolescents completed an intervention engagement questionnaire.
Results Parent users were very positive about the digital materials; 87% rated them as ‘good or excellent’ and 67% said they helped them have conversations with their child about sex. Web analytics revealed, however, that parent engagement with the digital materials was moderate at 27%, with 10% accessing the animated films. Triangulated data from surveys and interviews with parents, adolescents and teachers helped unpick barriers and facilitators of parental engagement.
Conclusions The use of OMTs to promote parent-teen communication about sexual and reproductive health show potential for increasing reach. However, this study suggests that, for optimal engagement of parents there is a need for: policy-led, finance-backed initiatives and public awareness campaigns to highlight the important role that parents play in SRH education; dedicated SRH training for teachers to help reduce their anxiety around engaging parents; early and sustained intervention with parents and their children; and interventions that address key barriers to engagement, including SRH education for parents, and focused efforts to engage hard-to-reach groups including male caregivers, ethnic minorities, and parents from religious and socially deprived backgrounds.
Implications 1) Reports acceptability of an innovative intervention which has wider public health applications and international appeal; 2) Responds to global calls to address the role of parents in improving adolescent sexual health outcomes; 3) Offers recommendations for development of interventions that address barriers to parental engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2021
EventESC Congress 2021 - Ghent, Belgium
Duration: 20 Sept 2021 → …


ConferenceESC Congress 2021
Period20/09/2021 → …


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