Individual and Family Correlates of Adolescents' Sexual Behavior: Multiethnic Findings

Article excerpt

Correlates of Adolescents' Sexual Behavior: Multiethnic Findings

Adolescence is a time of exploration of one's own limits. Currently many teenagers discover their own boundaries through risky sexual behaviors. The price for early onset of sexual activity is high; each year over one Million teenagers become pregnant and over four million receive the diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). Additionally, those adolescents that have been victims of sexual abuse are at greater risk of these problems and others, including anxiety and depression (for review, see Saewyc, Pettingell, & Magee, 2003). HIV diagnosis due to sexual contact is reported as early as age 13 among teenagers in the USA, with the highest prevalence rates among ethnic minorities such as Hispanics and African Americans (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). Only 50% of teen mothers receive their high school diploma by age 22 (Perper, Peterson, & Manlove, 2010), making pregnancy a significant contributor to high school dropout. The purpose of this study was to examine the contributions of potential individual and family correlates to risky sexual behaviors with a multiethnic sample, while considering the role of both parents separately. Specifically, the researchers looked at the relations between sexual attitudes, sexual behaviors, dating patterns, family composition, clarity of long-term goals, parental views, religious beliefs, and timing of education on sexual intercourse. For the current study, the frequency of sexual intercourse and age of first sexual intercourse were selected as the sexual behaviors of interest.

Impact of Parental Communication on Adolescents' Sexual Health Values by Race and Gender

Most adolescents report that their main sources of sex education are their parents (Lefkowitz, Sigman, & Au, 2000; Ream & Savin-Williams, 2005). Amount and quality of family discussions are positively correlated with teenagers' conservative attitudes toward sex (Fiese et al., 2002), although other studiesstress the interactional nature of the relations (Coley, Drzal, & Schindler, (2009). For example, adolescents were shown to communicate about sexuality more when they had positive relationships, as well as a higher frequency of shared activities, with their parents (Muller, Frisco, & Pearson,2006). Wyckoff et al. (2008) showed that teenagers with parents who communicated openly about sex were more likely to have fewer sex partners, use contraception, and postpone their sexual debut. Others have found very small relations between parent-adolescent sexual communication and adolescent sexual behavior (Somers & Vollmar, 2006).

Variations in communication style and the resulting values adolescents may hold about their sexual health behaviors have been found by race and gender, although the research is sparse in this specific domain and often examines mother-daughter communication only. For example, Dittus, Jaccard, and Gordon (1999) found that African-American teenagers held values similar to their mothers' views. Additionally, Somers and Fahlman (2001) found that Caucasians communicated in the least direct manner compared to other ethnic groups, while Hispanic-American parents are more direct in communicating their values to their sons and daughters (Somers & Fahlman, 2001). Wyckoff et al. (2008) indicated that both females and males communicate about sex with their mothers more than their fathers even though boys do so more with their fathers than do girls. At the same time, teens who communicated more with mothers held the most conservative values (Dilorio, Kelley, & Hockenberry Eaton, 1999). Another study revealed that mothers' communications are more associated with daughters' than sons' outcomes (Ballard & Morris, 1998); however, other studies have found fathers to have a stronger role in teenagers' sexual activity than previously thought (Ohalete, 2007; Moore & Chase-Lansdale, 2001). …


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