Sexual risk behavior is a public health problem among adolescents living at or below poverty level. Approximately 1 million pregnancies and 3 million cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are reported yearly. Parenting plays a significant role in adolescent behavior, with mother-adolescent sexual communication correlated with absent or delayed sexual behavior. This study developed an instrument examining constructs of mother-adolescent communication, the Mother-Adolescent Sexual Communication (MASC) instrument. A convenience sample of 99 mothers of middle school children completed the self-administered questionnaires. The original 34-item MASC was reduced to 18 items. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted on the 18-item scale, which resulted in four factors explaining 84.63% of the total variance. Internal consistency analysis produced Cronbach alpha coefficients of .87, .90, .82, and .71 for the four factors, respectively. Convergent validity via hypothesis testing was supported by significant correlations with several subscales of the Parent-Child Relationship Questionnaire (PCRQ) with MASC factors, that is, content and style factors with warmth, personal relationships and disciplinary warmth subscales of the PCRQ, the context factor with personal relationships, and the timing factor with warmth. In light of these findings, the psychometric characteristics and multidimensional perspective of the MASC instrument show evidence of usefulness for measuring and advancing knowledge of mother and adolescent sexual communication techniques.
Keywords: instrument; parenting; sexual risk behavior; adolescent; family
Sexual risk behavior is a prevalent public health problem among adolescents (Besharov, 1999; Haffner, 1998; Johnson, 1997; Moss, 1994). Unprotected sexual activity places adolescents at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unintentional pregnancies (Besharov, 1999; Haffner, 1998; Johnson, 1997; Kann et al., 1998; Millstein, Moscicki, & Broering, 1993; Moore & Rosenthal, 1993; Moss, 1994). By their 18th birthday, 60% of female adolescents and more than 50% of male adolescents have engaged in sexual intercourse. Approximately 750,000 teen pregnancies occur each year, and 82% are unintended (Guttmacher Institute, 2006).
Those adolescents living at or below poverty level engage in sexual activity at an earlier age and more frequently than teenagers from higher income homes (Singh, Darroch, & Frost, 2001). Poverty is associated with higher rates of HIV and STIs and it affects the course of diseases (Tuinstra, Groothoff, van den Heuvel, & Post, 1998). These disturbing statistics highlight the need for understanding issues associated with sexual risk behaviors among socioeconomically disadvantaged adolescents.
Parenting plays a significant role in adolescent risk behavior. Theoretical and empirical data suggest that mother-adolescent communication is directly correlated with absent or delayed adolescent sexual risk behavior (Clark & Shields, 1997; Jaccard, Dittus, & Litardo, 1998; Pistella & Bonati, 1998). Socialization literature indicates that parenting has a direct influence on childrenÊs self-esteem, personality, moral development, and independence, conformity to societal rules, social responsibility, and substance use (Baumrind, 1978, 1980, 1991; Bluestone & Tamis-LeMonda, 1999; Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1991; Steinberg, Lamborn, Darling, Mounts, & Dornbusch, 1994). Parental child-rearing practices affect both emotional and social development in adolescents, thereby impacting their tendency to participate in risk behaviors such as substance use, delinquency, and sexual activity (Baumrind, 1991; Grolnick & Ryan, 1989; Jaccard, Dittus, & Gordon, 1996; Maccoby & Martin, 1983).
Studies of the effect of mother-adolescent communication on sexual risk behavior present differing conclusions. …