The Influence of Parent and Parent–Adolescent Relationship Characteristics on Sexual Trajectories into Adulthood
To examine sexual partner acquisition into young adulthood and to explore what characteristics of the adolescent family context might predict this change, we used growth curve modeling to examine data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents followed longitudinally over 13 years through young adulthood (N = 5385). Growth curve modeling allowed us to treat the outcome as a dynamic variable and to examine 10 potential predictors of change while accounting for the nested nature of the data. Six family characteristics emerged as predictors of mean number of partners and rate of partner acquisition, while accounting for three significant adolescent predictors. Living in a single-parent or blended family and general communication about sex predicted higher lifetime number of sexual partners in young adulthood. Parent religiosity, parent disapproval of adolescent engagement in sex, and parent–adolescent connectedness were predictive of lower lifetime number of sexual partners. By following participants into their late twenties and early thirties, we were able to detect changes in the impact of early family factors that are not apparent in studies restricted to adolescents and emerging adults. For example, parent education, parent disapproval, and parent–adolescent connectedness were associated with higher rates of partner acquisition at age 23, but faster deceleration in partner acquisition as time progressed. Communication about negative consequences of sex was not predictive, regardless of whether it was “on time” (before sexual intercourse) or not. These results reveal that parents have significant, and sometimes unexpected, influence on their children’s sexual behavior that persists well into adulthood.
KeywordsSexual partners Family characteristics Longitudinal Add Health
This research used data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health Web site (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.
- Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480. https://doi.org/10.1037//0003066X.55.5.469.10.1023/A:1026450103225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Arnett, J. J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bogle, K. A. (2008). Hooking up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus. New York, NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Chandra, A., Mosher, W. D., Copen, C., & Sionean, C. (2011). Sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual identity in the United States: Data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth. National Health Statistics Reports, 36, 1–36. Retrieved from http://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/13186.
- Elder, G. (1985). Perspectives on the life course. In G. Elder (Ed.), Life course dynamics: Trajectories and transitions (pp. 23–50). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
- Epstein, M., Bailey, J. A., Manhart, L. E., Hill, K. G., Hawkins, J. D., Haggerty, K. P., & Catalano, R. F. (2014). Understanding the link between early sexual initiation and later sexually transmitted infection: Test and replication in two longitudinal studies. Journal of Adolescent Health, 54, 435–441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.09.016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- Faber, M. T., Nielsen, A., Nygård, M., Sparén, P., Tryggvadottir, L., Hansen, B. T., & Kjaer, S. K. (2011). Genital chlamydia, genital herpes, trichomonas vaginalis and gonorrhea prevalence, and risk factors among nearly 70,000 randomly selected women in 4 Nordic countries. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 38, 727–734. https://doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.1090b1013e318214bb318219b.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Halpern, C. T., & Kaestle, C. E. (2014). Sexuality in emerging adulthood. In L. Diamond & D. Tolman (Eds.), APA handbook of sexuality and psychology (pp. 487–522). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Harris, K. M. (2009). The national longitudinal study of adolescent to adult health (add health), Waves 1 & 2, 1994–1996; Wave 3, 2001–2002; Wave 4, 2007–2009 [machine-readable data file and documentation]. Chapel Hill, NC: Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR27021.v9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Harris, K. M., Halpern, C. T., Whitsel, E., Hussey, J., Tabor, J., Entzel, P., & Udry, J. R. (2009). The national longitudinal study of adolescent to adult health: Research design. http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth/design.
- Havighurst, R. J. (1948). Developmental tasks and education. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Jaccard, J., Dittus, P., & Gordon, V. (1998). Parent–adolescent congruency in reports of adolescent sexual behavior and in communications about sexual behavior. Child Development, 69, 247–261. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1998.tb06146.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lammers, C., Ireland, M., Resnick, M., & Blum, R. (2000). Influences on adolescents’ decision to postpone onset of sexual intercourse: A survival analysis of virginity among youths aged 13 to 18 years. Journal of Adolescent Health, 26, 42–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1054-139X(99)00041-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lansford, J. E., Yu, T., Erath, S. A., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., & Dodge, K. A. (2010). Developmental precursors of number of sexual partners from ages 16 to 22. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20, 651–677. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00654.x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Manlove, J., Franzetta, K., Ryan, S., & Moore, K. (2006). Adolescent sexual relationships, contraceptive consistency, and pregnancy prevention approaches. In A. Crouter & A. Booth (Eds.), Romance and sex in adolescence and emerging adulthood: Risks and opportunities (pp. 181–212). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Markham, C. M., Lormand, D., Gloppen, K. M., Peskin, M. F., Flores, B., Low, B., & House, L. D. (2010). Connectedness as a predictor of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46, S23–S41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.11.214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Parkes, A., Henderson, M., Wight, D., & Nixon, C. (2011). Is parenting associated with teenagers’ early sexual risk-taking, autonomy and relationship with sexual partners? Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 43, 30–40. https://doi.org/10.1363/4303011.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, Y. F., Congdon, R. T., & du Toit, M. (2011). HLM 7: Hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling. Chicago, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
- Samari, G., & Seltzer, J. A. (2016). Risky sexual behavior of foreign and native-born women in emerging adulthood: The long reach of mother–daughter relationships in adolescence. Social Science Research, 60, 222–235. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2016.06.003.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Sneed, J. R., Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., Gilligan, C., Chen, H., Crawford, T. N., & Kasen, S. (2006). Gender differences in the age-changing relationship between instrumentality and family contact in emerging adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 42, 787–797. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Tanner, J. L. (2006). Recentering during emerging adulthood: A critical turning point in life span human development. In J. J. Arnett & J. L. Tanner (Eds.), Emerging adults in America: Coming of age in the 21st century (pp. 21–55). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Vardas, E., Giuliano, A. R., Goldstone, S., Palefsky, J. M., Moreira, E. D., Penny, M. E., & Guris, D. (2011). External genital human papillomavirus prevalence and associated factors among heterosexual men on 5 continents. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 203, 58–65. https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiq015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Vasilenko, S. A., Kugler, K. C., Butera, N. M., & Lanza, S. T. (2015). Patterns of adolescent sexual behavior predicting young adult sexually transmitted infections: A latent class analysis approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 705–715. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0258-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Widman, L., Choukas-Bradley, S., Helms, S. W., Golin, C. E., & Prinstein, M. J. (2013). Sexual communication between early adolescents and their dating partners, parents, and best friends. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 731–741. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2013.843148.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Helfand, M. (2008). Ten years of longitudinal research on U.S. adolescent sexual behavior: Developmental correlates of sexual intercourse, and the importance of age, gender and ethnic background. Developmental Review, 28, 153–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2007.06.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar