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Parental Influence on Their Adult Children’s Sexual Values: A Multi-National Comparison Between the United States, Spain, Costa Rica, and Peru

Abstract

We examined the influence of perceived parental sexual values, religiosity, and family environment on young adults’ sexual values from the United States (n = 218), Spain (n = 240), Costa Rica (n = 172), and Peru (n = 105). On average, and across the four national groups, the messages young adults received from their parents about broad domains of sexual behaviors (masturbation, non-intercourse types of heterosexual sexual activity, premarital sex, same-sex activity, and cohabiting) were unequivocally restrictive. By contrast, across the four groups, young adults on average held rather permissive sexual values and their values differed significantly from those of their parents. Moreover, the nature of perceived parental sexual values (restrictive vs. permissive) was not associated significantly with young adults’ sexual values, age of sexual debut, or number of sexual partners. Comparatively, Spanish young adults held the most permissive sexual values, whereas US young adults held the most restrictive sexual values. Religiosity was the strongest predictor of young adults’ sexual values, followed by perceived parental sexual values and influence. In conclusion, it appears that despite having perceived restrictive parental messages about sex, these young adults currently hold permissive sexual attitudes, thus calling into question the influence parents actually have on their adult children’s sexual values.

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Notes

  1. We note that for the overall sample, perceived maternal and paternal communication about sex correlated significantly with each other, r(733) = .51, p < .001. Moreover, perceived maternal communications about sex did not differ significantly between female and male young adults (Ms = 1.36 vs. 1.29, respectively, t = 1.13). Perceived paternal communications about sex differed significantly between female and male young adults (Ms = .82 vs. 1.17, respectively, t = 23.16, p < .001), but in absolute terms, differed minimally (.35 on a 5-point scale), with a partial eta effect size of .03.

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Negy, C., Velezmoro, R., Reig-Ferrer, A. et al. Parental Influence on Their Adult Children’s Sexual Values: A Multi-National Comparison Between the United States, Spain, Costa Rica, and Peru. Arch Sex Behav 45, 477–489 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0570-9

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Keywords

  • Parent–child communications
  • Sexual values
  • Sexual behavior
  • Parental influence