For the first time in more than a decade, the rate of pregnancies among 18- and 19-year-olds is on the rise.

Unwed mothers and children born outside of marriage are more likely to be poor, increasing likelihood of dependence on government welfare. If we seek limited government, we need solutions to reduce the trend of unwed pregnancy.

As far as school instruction and programs for teens are concerned, the good news is that a recent report shows programs that teach abstinence exclusively (without “safe sex” caveats) are effective in delaying adolescents’ sexual debut and decreasing the likelihood sexual activity and engaging with multiple sexual partners.

Yet factors that influence adolescents’ sexual behavior and life changes also lie closer to home—in the actions and attitudes exhibited by parents. Specifically, parents’ examples that convey the messages that it is best to wait until marriage to have children and that marriage should be a bond of commitment can decrease the likelihood that teens will be sexually active.

Youths whose parents talk with them about the social and moral consequences of being sexually active and convey clear standards regarding sexual behavior are more likely to be abstinent. Adolescents’ very  perception that their parents would disapprove of their becoming sexually active reduces the likelihood that they would contract a sexually transmitted disease. And teens whose parents indicate a concern about their behavior via monitoring and involvement are less likely to be sexually active.

Likewise, messages sent through parents’ own example has an impact on the sexual behavior of their children. Teens who were born out of wedlock are more likely to be sexually active than peers whose parents were married at the time of their birth. In addition, youths whose parents do not marry or whose marriages end in dissolution are more likely to be sexually active and to have more sexual partners. In fact, the number of transitions in family structure that teen girls experience is related to an increase in the likelihood that they will become pregnant before they reach their twenties.

Regardless of the impact of culture or peers, parents can and do have an effect on their children’s sexual behavior and related prospects for the future.