American University
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Parent-child communication about sexuality

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posted on 2023-08-04, 13:18 authored by Mary Jo Nolin

This study explores the relationships linking direct and indirect parent-child communication about sexuality, similarity of parent and child in sexual value, and adolescent sexual behavior. A combination of quantitative and qualitative research strategies was employed. Survey data were gathered from 84 matched sets of mothers, fathers, and their high school age son or daughter using self-administered questionnaires to identify patterns of factual, sociosexual, moral, and indirect communication as well as parent-child value similarity. Focused interviews were conducted with small groups of parents and children to enhance understanding of the process of communication. Analysis of the data matched for family dyads captured similarities and differences in the perspectives of family members and traced patterns of communication revealed by discussions acknowledged by both parent and child. Direct parent-child communication about sexuality is more extensive for daughters than for sons, and son-daughter differences are most pronounced for moral communication. Only modest associations exist between parent-child communication and value similarity, and they appear to be mediated by the sexual standard of the parent. Analysis of behavioral data for adolescents age 16 or older shows that parent-child value similarity is positively associated with virginity for adolescents, and the association is stronger for sons than for daughters. Data from the focused interviews suggest that son-daughter differences in communication pattern are due to the greater likelihood of mothers to communicate about sexuality as well as to the double standard. Parents also report that they implicitly teach sexual values through a wide of communication about related issues and through example. Finally, the apparently stronger influence of parent-child value similarity on the behavior of sons may emerge because decision making power in adolescent relationships is greater for boys than for girls. Associations among parent-child communication about sexuality, parent-child value similarity, and adolescent sexual behavior are complex, differ for sons and daughters, and need to be examined further with larger samples.



American University




Ph.D. American University 1988.


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