Public Displays of Affection

  Public Displays of Affection Robert Seith | CWK Network Producer
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“I mean you shouldn’t really be making out in the hallways that’s not what you should be doing in school. You can do that on your own time.”

–Dana, 16. Who says her school’s rules against public displays of affection are justified.

  Related Information What Parents Need To Know Resources

Recently a high school student in the tiny town of Bend, Oregon made national news when she was suspended for hugging her boyfriend in the school hallway. School officials and kids don’t always agree on the rules against public displays of affection.

In hallways, cafeterias or parking lots, there’s hugging, kissing, and more. Students say they often see public displays of affection.“I think it’s kind of weird, in the middle of the hall. Like get a room, you know?” says 15-year-old Meredith.

But many have no problem with it. “Hugging you know, in between classes, it’s not really a big deal,” says Carla, 16. “It’s not doing anyone any harm really, I don’t think,” adds 16-year-old Jesse.

The problem is, different people will have different opinions on what is harmless and what isn’t. “You have somebody holding hands and touching inappropriate body parts as they’re walking down the hall,” says Paula Bryman, LCSW, “Is that going to offend somebody else… is that going to make them late for class… is that going to make them focused on their boyfriend and not their academics?”

So, to avoid controversy, in most schools the rule is: no public displays of affection, period. Even an innocent kiss with your boyfriend… as 17-year-old Polly Matthews found out one day. “I’ve gotten in trouble before when teachers just told me to like cut it out in the hallway or something like that,” she says.

Teenagers are exposed to more sexual content than ever in the media… and many scoff at the rules against displays of affection. “That’s really none of their business,” says Polly. “If I got suspended for hugging my girlfriend, that would be ridiculous,” adds 15-year-old Andrew.

“Is it silly? Maybe. But you know what, when I go to work I have to follow rules and I don’t like all my rules and this is sort of part of growing up,” says Bryman.

And she says parents should help their child understand, “It’s your job to walk into that building and be focused on learning. Not focused on your boyfriend. Once school is out, get your homework done, you can focus on the boyfriend.”

By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

Teenagers who set the sexual boundaries in a relationship may be a growing trend, according to research based on national surveys of the sexual habits of teens. The study, published in the American Sociological Association’s journal Context, reveals that girls are convincing more boys to prolong sex until they are in a serious relationship. Study co-author Barbara Risman, a sociologist at North Carolina State University, says, in addition, that more boys are staying virgins longer.

The study’s findings, based on survey results compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, included the following statistics:

  • The percentage of sexually active black teens fell from 81.5 percent to 72.7 percent from 1991 to 1997.
  • Among whites, the number declined from 50.1 percent to 43.7 percent; among Latinos, the drop was 53.1 percent to 52.2 percent.
  • The number of high school boys under 18 who engaged in sexual activity dropped 5.7 percent from 1991 to 1997.
  • Teen pregnancy rates dropped 17 percent from 1990 to 1996.
  • Teen abortion rates dropped 16 percent from 1990 to 1995.

So why are more teens waiting longer to have sex? Some experts believe they are becoming increasingly aware of the risks involved in sexual activity – including pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) – due to abstinence campaigns and a surge in positive messages about self-esteem. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cites these additional statistics and facts that may help curb teenage sexual activity:

  • More than 1 million teens become pregnant each year.
  • Young girls have more problems during pregnancy.
  • Babies of young, teen mothers are more likely to be born with serious health problems.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are at epidemic levels.
  • Some STDs are incurable. They may cause pain, sterility or sometimes even death.
By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

While it is important to talk with children about sex and sexuality, parents are often unsure of how to begin such open communication. Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation offer these tips for having a positive conversation with your child about sexual relationships and where, how and why to draw limits:

  • Explore your own attitudes – Studies show that children who feel they can talk with their parents about sex are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior as teens than children who do not feel they can talk with their parents about the subject. Explore your own feelings about sex. If you are very uncomfortable with the subject, read some books and discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, relative, physician or clergy member. The more you examine the subject, the more confident you’ll feel discussing it.
  • Start early – Teaching your child about sex demands a gentle, continuous flow of information that should begin as early as possible. As your child grows, you can continue his or her education by adding more materials gradually until he or she understands the subject well.
  • Take the initiative – If your child hasn’t started asking questions about sex, look for a good opportunity to bring up subject.
  • Talk about more than the “birds and the bees” – While children need to know the biological facts about sex, they also need to understand that sexual relationships involve caring, concern and responsibility. By discussing the emotional aspect of a sexual relationship with your child, he or she will be better informed to make decisions later on and to resist peer pressure.
  • Give accurate, age-appropriate information – Talk about sex in a way that fits the age and stage of your child.
  • Communicate your values – It’s your responsibility to let your child know your values about sex. Although he or she may not adopt these values as he or she matures, at least your child will be aware of them as he or she struggles to figure out how he or she feels and wants to behave.
  • Relax – Don’t worry about knowing all of the answers to your child’s questions. What you know is a lot less important than how you respond. If you can convey the message that no subject, including sex, is forbidden in your home, you’ll be doing just fine.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), teens who have high self-esteem and self-respect make more responsible health choices. As a parent, you can help your teen develop respect in the following ways:

  • Allow your teen to voice opinions.
  • Allow your teen to be involved in family decisions.
  • Listen to your teen’s opinions and feelings.
  • Help your teen set realistic goals.
  • Show faith in your teen’s ability to reach those goals.
  • Give unconditional love.

Whether your child is thinking about having sex or engaging in other risky behaviors, you can take steps to help him or her make an informed decision. By following these tips from the AMA, your child will realize that you want to help:

  • Allow your teen to describe the problem or situation – Ask how he or she feels about the problem. Ask questions that avoid “yes” or “no” responses. These usually begin with “how,” “why” or “what.” Really listen to what your teen is saying, instead of thinking about your response. Try to put yourself in your teen’s shoes to understand his or her thoughts.
  • Talk with your teen about choices – Teens sometimes believe they don’t have choices. Help your teen to see alternatives.
  • Help your teen to identify and compare the possible consequences of all of the choices – Ask your teen to consider how the results of the decision will affect his or her goals. Explain (without lecturing) the consequences of different choices.

American Medical Association
American Sociological Association
Children Now
Kaiser Family Foundation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Changes in Affection

Changes In Affection

“You’re like in front of your friends, I mean, you get like embarrassed and stuff” Ben, age 10

Research shows a main root of the tension between adolescents and their parents is the struggle kids feel between a need to stay close and a desire to show independence from mom and dad. No where is that more evident than on the physical level, where parents must adapt to the changing attitudes a child feels about the outward displays of affection. A parent who misreads their child’s signals risks either harming their relationship or their child’s self-esteem.

Ten-year-old Ben talks about a kiss from his parents, “You’re like in front of your friends, I mean, you get like embarrassed and stuff and like I said before, they’ll start calling you names.”

Experts agree, while adolescents, especially boys, need extra physical space during those awkward years, it’s a delicate balance. By not respecting this personal space, the parent risks damaging the child’s self-esteem, but backing off too much, too soon can also cause a problem.

“And the risk is the child may feel abandoned as it were…The child can get confused if the back-off is sudden,” states Psychologist Dr. Janet Franzoni.

Parents should read their child carefully and try to find a balance that works for both parties.

 What Parents Should Know

It’s called ‘PDS’ – or Parental Dread Syndrome and its best defined as parents pulling away from their teenagers because they are somewhat fearful of their problems. It’s also a common reaction to parents dealing with kids who are struggling with newfound independence.

But experts agree that parents need to realize that no matter how grown up their children seem, they are still their kids. They are struggling with peer pressure and media images and they need the open communication that comes from a willing parent.

Is there a delicate balance of allowing kids their own space? Absolutely. And striking that balance can be a difficult job for most parents because of the risk of coming off as indifferent. But a parent that backs off too much can is at risk of having their child feel alone, and, in turn, the child may withdraw, according to Psychologist Dr. Janet Franzoni.

As kids approach early adolescence and their late teens, its important for parents to understand that its normal for their child to stubbornly resist their parent’s point of view. They are developing their own ideas and value systems. But it’s the open communication from a parent that will make the difference.

Stages of Adolescence

To understand how your child is changing, you may want to know the three stages of adolescence:

Early Adolescence – 13-14: Your child may question his or her old beliefs and you as a parent.

Middle Adolescence 15-17 : Recognition that the parental opinion not necessarily the final world.

Late Adolescence 18-21 : Able to view parental opinions as acceptable and feel confident in their own opinions



Parents of adolescents are frequently frustrated or concerned that their child has stopped confiding in them for advice. However, studies indicate that adolescents will naturally turn to their peers for comfort – peers who often share the same interests and value systems. It’s a natural part of growing up that this new level of friendship intimacy supplements the intimacy of a close family member.

Experts tell us that kids seek approval from adults and therefore are less inclined to reveal things because they fear being looked upon as childish. So does this mean parents should back off? Not at all, states Psychologist Janet Franzoni. Just understand this new dynamic and be careful to give your child the space she needs.


Bright Futures Website:

For general information of adolescent development and psychology: