Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 649–662 | Cite as

Patterns of Sexuality Communication Between Preadolescents and Their Mothers and Fathers

  • Sarah C. Wyckoff
  • Kim S. Miller
  • Rex Forehand
  • J. J. Bau
  • Amy Fasula
  • Nicholas Long
  • Lisa Armistead
Original Paper


The purpose of the current study was to examine communication about sexual topics between preadolescents and their mothers and fathers. Participants were 135 African-American mothers, fathers, and their 9- to 12-year-old offspring. Each member of the triad completed a 10-item measure of communication about risk factors for sexual activity, sexual communication, and sexual risk prevention. A majority of parents and their preadolescents reported communication had occurred about most topics. Mothers and fathers were equally likely to communicate with sons whereas mothers were more likely to communicate with daughters than were fathers. Based on the study results, preadolescence may be the optimal time for parents to provide sexual risk prevention messages to their children before sexual behaviors are initiated.


Preadolescent and parent communication Sexuality African-Americans Fathers 


  1. Ball, J., Pelton, J., Forehand, R., Long, N., & Wallace, S. (2004). Methodological overview of the Parents Matter! Program. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 13, 21–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Centers for Disease Control, Prevention. (2002). Trends in sexual risk behaviors among high school students—United States, 1991–2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 51, 856–859.Google Scholar
  3. Centers for Disease Control, Prevention. (2004). HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2003 (Vol. 15, p. 12). Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Google Scholar
  4. Darroch, J. E., Frost, J. J., Singh, S., & The Study Team. (2001). Teenage sexual and reproductive behavior in developed countries: Can more progress be made? New York: The Guttmacher Institute.Google Scholar
  5. DiClemente, R. J., Wingood, G. M., Crosby, R., Cobb, B. K., Harrington, K., & Davies, S. L. (2001). Parent-adolescent communication and sexual risk behaviors among African American adolescent females. The Journal of Pediatrics, 139, 407–412.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DiIorio, C., Kelley, M., & Hockenberry-Eaton, M. (1999). Communication about sexual issues: Mothers, fathers, and friends. Journal of Adolescent Health, 24, 181–189.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. DiIorio, C., Pluhar, E., & Belcher, L. (2003). Parent-child communication about sexuality: A review of the literature from 1980–2002. Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention & Education for Adolescents & Children, 5, 7–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dittus, P. J., Jaccard, J., & Gordon, V. V. (1999). Direct and nondirect communication of maternal beliefs to adolescents: Adolescent motivation for premarital sexual activity. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 1927–1963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dutra, R., Miller, K. S., & Forehand, R. (1999). The process and content of sexual communication with adolescents in two-parent families: Associations with sexual risk-taking behavior. AIDS and Behavior, 3, 59–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eaton, D. K., Kann, L., Kinchen, S., Ross, J., Hawkins, J., Harris, W. A, Lowry, R., McManus, T., Chyen, D., Shanklin, S., Lim, C., Grunbaum, J., & Wechler, W. (2006). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2005. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 55(SS-5), 1–33.Google Scholar
  11. Feldman, S. S., & Rosenthal, D. A. (2000). The effect of communication characteristics on family members’ perceptions of parents as sex educators. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10, 119–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Forehand, R., Miller, K. S., Armistead, L., Kotchick, B. A., & Long, N. (2004). The Parents Matter! Program: An introduction. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 13, 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guttmacher Institute. (2006). U.S. teenage pregnancy statistics national and state trends by race and ethnicity. New York: The Guttmacher Institute.Google Scholar
  14. Hutchinson, M. K., & Cooney, T. M. (1998). Patterns of parent-teen sexual risk communication: Implications for intervention. Family Relations, 47, 185–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hutchinson, M. K., Jemmott, J. B., Jemmott, L. S., Braverman, P., & Fong, G. T. (2003). The role of mother-daughter sexual risk communication in reducing sexual risk behaviors among urban adolescent females: A prospective study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 33, 98–107.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 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.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jaccard, J., Dodge, T., & Dittus, P. (2003). Maternal discussions about pregnancy and adolescents, attitudes toward pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health, 33, 84–87.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kaiser Family Foundation. (1999). Kids ready to talk about today’s tough issues before their parents are: Sex, AIDS, violence and drugs/alcohol. Available: Retrieved: May 12, 2005.
  19. Karofsky, P., Zeng, L., & Kosorok, M. R. (2000). Relationship between adolescent-parental communication and initiation of first intercourse by adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 28, 41–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kirkman, M., Rosenthal, D. A., & Feldman, S. S. (2001). Freeing up the subject: Tension between traditional masculinity and involved fatherhood through communication about sexuality with adolescents. Culture, Health, & Sexuality, 3, 391–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kirkman, M., Rosenthal, D. A., & Feldman, S. S. (2002). Talking to a tiger: Fathers reveal their difficulties in communicating about sexuality with adolescents. In S. S. Feldman & D. A. Rosenthal (Eds.), Talking sexuality: Parent-adolescent communication. No 97, in W. Damon (Series Ed.) New directions for child and adolescent development (pp. 57–74). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  22. Klein, J. D., Sabaratnam, P., Pazos, B., Auerbach, M. M., Havens, C. G., & Branch, M. J. (2005). Evaluation of the parents as primary sexuality educators program. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37, S95–S99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kotchick, B. A., Dorsey, S., Miller, K. S., & Forehand, R. (1999). Adolescent sexual risk-taking behavior in single-parent ethnic minority families. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 93–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lefkowitz, E. S., Romo, L. F., Corona, R., Au, T. K, & Sigman, M. (2000). How Latino American and European adolescents discuss conflicts, sexuality, and AIDS with their mothers. Developmental Psychology, 36, 315–325.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Leland, N., & Barth, R. (1993). Characteristics of adolescents who have attempted to avoid HIV and who have communicated with parents about sex. Journal of Adolescent Research, 8, 58–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li, X., Feigelman, S., & Stanton, B. (2000). Perceived parental monitoring and health risk behaviors among urban low-income African-American children and adolescents. Society for Adolescent Medicine, 27, 43–48.Google Scholar
  27. Miller, B. C., Benson, B., & Galbraith, K. A. (2001). Family relationships and adolescent pregnancy risk: A research synthesis. Developmental Review, 21, 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miller, K. S., Forehand, R., & Kotchick, B. A., (1999). Adolescent sexual behavior in two ethnic minority samples: The role of family variables. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 85–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Miller, K. S., Kotchick, B. A., Dorsey, S., Forehand, R., & Ham, A. N. (1998). Family communication about sex: What are parents saying and are their adolescents listening? Family Planning Perspectives, 30, 218–222 & 235.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miller, K. S., Levin, M. L., Whitaker, D. J., & Xu, X. (1998). Patterns of condom use among adolescents: The impact of mother-adolescent communication. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 1542–1544.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. O’Donnell, L., O’Donnell, C. R., & Stueve, A. (2001). Early sexual initiation and subsequent sex-related risks among urban minority youth: The reach for health study. Family Planning Perspectives, 33, 268–275.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. O’Donnell, L., Stueve, A., Wilson-Simmons, R., Dash, K., Agronick, G., & JeanBapstiste, V. (2006). Heterosexual risk behaviors among urban young adolescents. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 26, 87–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. O’Sullivan, L., Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F., & Watkins, B. X. (2001). Mother-daughter communication about sex among African American and Latino families. Journal of Adolescent Research, 16, 269–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pick S., & Palos, P. A. (1995). Impact of the family on the sex lives of adolescents. Adolescence, 30, 667–675.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Raffaelli, M., Bogenschneider, K., & Flood, M. F. (1998). Parent-teen communication about sexual topics. Journal of Family Issues, 19, 315–333.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Romer, D., Black, M., Ricardo, I., Feigelman, S., Kaljee, L., Galbraith, J., et al. (1994). Social influences on the sexual behavior of youth at risk for HIV exposure. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 977–985.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosenthal, D. A., & Feldman, S. S. (1999). The importance of importance: Adolescents’ perceptions of parental communication about sexuality. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 835–851.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rosenthal, D., Senserrick, T., & Feldman, S. (2001). A typology approach to describing parents as communicators about sexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 463–482.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Turner, C. F., Ku, L., Rogers, S. M., Lindberg, L. D., Pleck, J. H., & Sonenstein, F. L. (1998). Adolescent sexual behavior, drug use, and violence: Increased reporting with computer survey technology. Science, 280, 867–873.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Whalen, C. K., Henker, B., Hollingshead, J., & Burgess, S. (1996). Parent-adolescent dialogues about AIDS. Journal of Family Psychology, 10, 343–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Whitaker, D. J., Miller, K. S., May, D. C., & Levin, M. L. (1999). Teenage partners’ communication about sexual risk and condom use: The importance of parent-teenager discussions. Family Planning Perspectives, 31, 117–121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah C. Wyckoff
    • 1
  • Kim S. Miller
    • 1
  • Rex Forehand
    • 2
  • J. J. Bau
    • 3
  • Amy Fasula
    • 1
  • Nicholas Long
    • 4
  • Lisa Armistead
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB PreventionCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Behavioral ResearchUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  4. 4.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Arkansas for Medical SciencesLittle RockUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations