Emerging adulthood is a developmental period with high rates of sexual risk behavior. Effective parenting practices can reduce the likelihood of this behavior, but most research on the protective effects of parenting focuses on mothers. Research is needed to assess the role of paternal parenting in regards to their children’s sexual risk behavior, particularly for children of teen mothers, who show a greater likelihood of risky sexual behaviors than those with older mothers. We investigated associations between residential fathers’ parenting processes—communication, disapproval of teen sexual behavior, parental presence, and closeness—during adolescence and sexual risk behaviors reported by their children in emerging adulthood. Using multiple group structural equation modeling with data from 7399 participants at Wave I and Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), we examined whether and how residential fathers’ parenting relates to their children’s sexual risk behavior independent of mothers’ parenting processes, and whether these associations differ across children’s sex and for children of teen and older mothers. We found that adolescents’ perceptions of higher father disapproval of teen sexual behavior predicted lower levels of sexual risk behavior during emerging adulthood with no significant differences across emerging adults’ sex or for children of teen relative to older mothers. Our findings suggest that teens’ relationships with their fathers during adolescence are important for their future sexual health, despite a general understanding of emerging adulthood as a period characterized by independence and separation from parents. Additionally, our results suggest that even though children of teen mothers show greater likelihood of risky sexual behaviors than those of older parents, the processes through which fathers can support teens’ sexual health may be similar.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adamsons, K., & Johnson, S. K. (2013). An updated and expanded meta-analysis of nonresident fathering and child well-being. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(4), 589–599. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0033786.
Alexopoulos, C., & Cho, J. (2018). A moderated mediation model of parent–child communication, risk taking, alcohol consumption, and sexual experience in early adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(2), 589–597. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1181-z.
Alleyne-Green, B., Grinnell-Davis, C., Clark, T. T., & Cryer-Coupet, Q. R. (2015). The role of fathers in reducing dating violence victimization and sexual risk behaviors among a national sample of Black adolescents. Children and Youth Services Review, 55, 48–55.
Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for? Child Development Perspectives, 1, 68–73. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2007.00016.x.
Aznar, A., & Tenenbaum, H. R. (2015). Gender and age differences in parent–child emotion talk. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 33, 148–155. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjdp.12069.
Bersamin, M., Todd, M., Fisher, D. A., Hill, D. L., Grube, J. W., & Walker, S. (2008). Parenting practices and adolescent sexual behavior: A longitudinal study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 70(1), 97–112. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00464.x.
Bowlby, J. (1969/1982). Attachment and Loss, Volume 1, Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
Brown, G. L., Mangelsdorf, S. C., & Neff, C. (2012). Father involvement, paternal sensitivity, and father-child attachment security in the first three years. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(3), 421–430. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027836.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). STDs in adolescents and young adults. 2016 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance. https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats16/adolescents.htm. Accessed July 30, 2018.
Chantala, K., Kalsbeek, W. D., & Andraca, E. (2004). Nonresponse in wave III of the add health study. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth/data/guides/W3nonres.pdf.
Chen, F. F. (2007). Sensitivity of goodness of fit indexes to lack of measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 14(3), 464–504. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705510701301834.
Coakley, T. M., Randolph, S., Shears, J., Beamon, E. R., Collins, P., & Sides, T. (2017). Parent–youth communication to reduce at-risk sexual behavior: A systematic literature review. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 27(6), 609–624. https://doi.org/10.1080/10911359.2017.1313149.
Coley, R. L., Lombardi, C. M., Lynch, A. D., Mahalik, J. R., & Sims, J. (2013). Sexual partner accumulation from adolescence through early adulthood: The role of family, peer, and school social norms. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(1), 91–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.01.005.
de Graaf, H., Vanwesenbeeck, I., Woertman, L., & Meeus, W. (2011). Parenting and adolescents’ sexual development in western societies: A literature review. European Psychologist, 16(1), 21–31. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000031.
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(3–4), 7–32. https://doi.org/10.1300/J129v05n03_02.
Dilorio, C., McCarty, F., Resnicow, K., Lehr, S., & Denzmore, P. (2007). REAL Men: A group-randomized trial of an HIV prevention intervention for adolescent boys. American Journal of Public Health, 97(6), 1084–1089. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2005.073411.
Dittus, P. J., Michael, S. L., Becasen, J. S., Gloppen, K. M., McCarthy, K., & Guilamo-Ramos, V. (2015). Parental monitoring and its associations with adolescent sexual risk behavior: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 136(6), e1587–e1599. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2015-0305.
Donaldson, C. D., Handren, L. M., & Crano, W. D. (2016). The enduring impact of parents’ monitoring, warmth, expectancies, and alcohol use on their children’s future binge drinking and arrests: A longitudinal analysis. Prevention Science, 17, 606. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-016-0656-1.
Downing, J., Jones, L., Bates, G., Sumnall, H., & Bellis, M. A. (2011). A systematic review of parent and family-based intervention effectiveness on sexual outcomes in young people. Health Education Research, 26(5), 808–833. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/cyr019.
Fosco, G. M., Caruthers, A. S., & Dishion, T. J. (2012). A six-year predictive test of adolescent family relationship quality and effortful control pathways to emerging adult social and emotional health. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(4), 565–575. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028873.
Furstenberg, F. F., Jr., & Harris, K. M. (1993). When fathers matter/why fathers matter: The impact of paternal involvement on the offspring of adolescent mothers. In A. Lawson, D. L. Rhode, A. Lawson, & D. L. Rhode (Eds.), The politics of pregnancy: Adolescent sexuality and public policy (pp. 189–215). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Gault-Sherman, M. (2012). It’s a two-way street: The bidirectional relationship between parenting and delinquency. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(2), 121–145. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-011-9656-4.
Grossman, J., Tracy, A., Richer, A., & Erkut, S. (2015). Comparing sexuality communication among offspring of teen parents and adult parents: A different role for extended family. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-015-0183-z.
Grossman, J. M., Tracy, A. J., Charmaraman, L., Ceder, I., & Erkut, S. (2014). Protective effects of middle school comprehensive sex education with family involvement. Journal of School Health, 84(11), 739–747. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12199.
Guilamo-Ramos, V., Bouris, A., Lee, J., McCarthy, K., Michael, S. L., Pitt-Barnes, S., et al. (2012). Paternal influences on adolescent sexual risk behaviors: A structured literature review. Pediatrics, 130(5), e1313–e1325.
Hampton, M. R., Jeffery, B., McWatters, B., & Smith, P. (2005). Influence of teens’ perceptions of parental disapproval and peer behaviour on their initiation of sexual intercourse. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 14(3–4), 105–121.
Harris, K. M., Halpern, C. T., Whitsel, E., Hussey, J., Tabor, J., Entzel, P., et al. (2009). The national longitudinal study of adolescent health: Research design. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth/design.
Hutchinson, K., & Cederbaum, J. (2011). Talking to daddy’s little girl about sex: Daughters’ reports of sexual communication and support from fathers. Journal of Family Issues, 32(4), 550–572.
James, J., Ellis, B. J., Schlomer, G. L., & Garber, J. (2012). Sex-specific pathways to early puberty, sexual debut, and sexual risk taking: Tests of an integrated evolutionary–developmental model. Developmental Psychology, 48(3), 687–702. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026427.
Jewell, T., Gardner, T., Susi, K., Watchorn, K., Coopey, E., Simic, M., et al. (2019). Attachment measures in middle childhood and adolescence: A systematic review of measurement properties. Clinical Psychology Review, 68, 71–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2018.12.004.
Jones, D. J., Zalot, A. A., Foster, S. E., Sterrett, E., & Chester, C. (2007). A review of childrearing in African American single mother families: The relevance of a coparenting framework. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 16(5), 671–683. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-006-9115-0.
Kalichman, S. C., Ntseane, D., Nthomang, K., Segwabe, M., Phorano, O., & Simbayi, L. C. (2007). Recent multiple sexual partners and HIV transmission risks among people living with HIV/AIDS in Botswana. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 83(5), 371–375.
Kalina, O., Geckova, A. M., Klein, D., Jarcuska, P., Orosova, O., van Dijk, J. P., et al. (2013). Mother’s and father’s monitoring is more important than parental social support regarding sexual risk behaviour among 15-year-old adolescents. The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, 18(2), 95–103. https://doi.org/10.3109/13625187.2012.752450.
Khurana, A., & Cooksey, E. C. (2012). Examining the effect of maternal sexual communication and adolescents’ perceptions of maternal disapproval on adolescent risky sexual involvement. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51(6), 557–565.
Killoren, S. E., & Deutsch, A. R. (2014). A longitudinal examination of parenting processes and Latino youth’s risky sexual behaviors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(12), 1982–1993. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-0053-z.
Kincaid, C., Jones, D. J., Sterrett, E., & McKee, L. (2012). A review of parenting and adolescent sexual behavior: The moderating role of gender. Clinical Psychology Review, 32(3), 177–188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2012.01.002.
Kiselica, M. S., & Kiselica, A. M. (2014). The complicated worlds of adolescent fathers: Implications for clinical practice, public policy, and research. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 15(3), 260–274. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037043.
Liu, N., Vigod, S. N., Farrugia, M. M., Urquia, M. L., & Ray, J. G. (2018). Intergenerational teen pregnancy: A population-based cohort study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 125(13), 1766–1774. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.15297.
Lugo-Candelas, C. I., Harvey, E. A., Breaux, R. P., & Herbert, S. D. (2016). Ethnic differences in the relation between parental emotion socialization and mental health in emerging adults. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(3), 922–938. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-015-0266-8.
Mallers, M. H., Charles, S. T., Neupert, S. D., & Almeida, D. M. (2010). Perceptions of childhood relationships with mother and father: Daily emotional and stressor experiences in adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 46(6), 1651–1661. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021020.
Manning, W. D., Giordano, P. C., & Longmore, M. A. (2006). Hooking up the relationship contexts of ‘‘nonrelationship’’ sex. Journal of Adolescent Research, 21, 459–483.
Markham, C. M., Lormand, D., Gloppen, K. M., Peskin, M. F., Flores, B., Low, B., et al. (2010). Connectedness as a predictor of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(3, Suppl), S23–S41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.11.214.
Mascaro, J. S., Rentscher, K. E., Hackett, P. D., Mehl, M. R., & Rilling, J. K. (2017). Child gender influences paternal behavior, language, and brain function. Behavioral Neuroscience, 131(3), 262–273. https://doi.org/10.1037/bne0000199.
McKelvey, R. D., & Zavoina, W. (1975). A statistical model for the analysis of ordinal level dependent variables. Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 4(1), 103–120.
Meade, C. S., Kershaw, T. S., & Ickovics, J. R. (2008). The intergenerational cycle of teenage motherhood: An ecological approach. Health Psychology, 27(4), 419–429. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-618.104.22.1689.
Murry, V. M., McNair, L. D., Myers, S. S., Chen, Y.-F., & Brody, G. H. (2014). Intervention induced changes in perceptions of parenting and risk opportunities among rural African American. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23(2), 422–436. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9714-5.
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2017). Mplus user’s guide (8th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.
Nogueira Avelar e Silva, R., van de Bongardt, D., van de Looij-Jansen, P., Wijtzes, A., & Raat, H. (2016). Mother- and father-adolescent relationships and early sexual intercourse. Pediatrics. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-0782.
Paik, A. (2010). The contexts of sexual involvement and concurrent sexual partnerships. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 42(1), 33–42. https://doi.org/10.1363/4203310.
Pires, R., Araújo-Pedrosa, A., Pereira, J., & Canavarro, M. C. (2014). Preventing adolescent pregnancy: Biological, social, cultural, and political influences on age at first sexual intercourse. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 35(4), 239–254.
Potard, C., Courtois, R., Réveillère, C., Bréchon, G., & Courtois, A. (2017). The relationship between parental attachment and sexuality in early adolescence. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 22(1), 47–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/02673843.2013.873065.
Rostad, W. L., Silverman, P., & McDonald, M. K. (2014). Daddy’s little girl goes to college: An investigation of females’ perceived closeness with fathers and later risky behaviors. Journal of American College Health, 62(4), 213–220. https://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2014.887570.
Ruhl, H., Dolan, E. A., & Buhrmester, D. (2015). Adolescent attachment trajectories with mothers and fathers: The importance of parent–child relationship experiences and gender. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 25(3), 427–442. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12144.
Rutkowski, L., & Svetina, D. (2017). Measurement invariance in international surveys: Categorical indicators and fit measure performance. Applied Measurement in Education, 30(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.1080/08957347.2016.1243540.
Sathiyasusuman, A. (2015). Associated risk factors of STIs and multiple sexual relationships among youths in Malawi. PLoS ONE, 10(8), e0134286.
Satterwhite, C. L., Torrone, E., Meites, E., Dunne, E. F., Maharjan, R., Ocfemia, M. C., et al. (2013). Sexually transmitted infections among US women and men: Prevalence and incidence estimates, 2008. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 40(3), 187–193. https://doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318286bb53.
Scharf, M., & Mayseless, O. (2008). Late adolescent girls’ relationships with parents and romantic partner: The distinct role of mothers and fathers. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 837–855. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2008.06.012.
Seiffge-Krenke, I., Overbeek, G., & Vermulst, A. (2010). Parent–child relationship trajectories during adolescence: Longitudinal associations with romantic outcomes in emerging adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 33(1), 159–171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2009.04.001.
Simons, L. G., Burt, C., & Tambling, R. (2013). Identifying mediators for the influence of family factors on risky sex. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22, 460–470.
Simons, L. G., Sutton, T. E., Simons, R. L., Gibbons, F. X., & Murry, V. M. (2016). Mechanisms that link parenting practices to adolescents’ risky sexual behavior: A test of six competing theories. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(2), 255–270. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-015-0409-7.
Sutton, T. E., & Simons, L. G. (2015). Sexual assault among college students: Family of origin hostility, attachment, and the hook-up culture as risks. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24, 2827–2840. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-014-0087-1.
Taradash, A., Connolly, J., Pepler, D., Craig, W., & Costa, M. (2001). The interpersonal context of romantic autonomy in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 24(3), 365–377. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2001.0404.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2016a). Final recommendation statement: Chlamydia and gonorrhea: Screening. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/chlamydia-and-gonorrhea-screening.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2016b). Final recommendation statement: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection: Screening. Retrieved July 30, 2018, from https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/human-immunodeficiency-virus-hiv-infection-screening.
van de Bongardt, D., Reitz, E., & Deković, M. (2016). Indirect over-time relations between parenting and adolescents’ sexual behaviors and emotions through global self-esteem. Journal of Sex Research, 53(3), 273–285. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2015.1046155.
Walper, S., & Wendt, E.-V. (2015). Adolescents’ relationships with mother and father and their links to the quality of romantic relationships: A classification approach. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12(5), 516–532. https://doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2015.1065727.
Widman, L., Choukas-Bradley, S., Noar, S. M., Nesi, J., & Garrett, K. (2016). Parent-adolescent sexual communication and adolescent safer sex behavior: A meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 170(1), 52–61. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.2731.
Wight, D., & Fullerton, D. (2013). A review of interventions with parents to promote the sexual health of their children. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(1), 4–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.04.014.
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(2), 153–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2007.06.001.
This work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: R03HD085939. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors are grateful for editorial feedback from Patricia East and Ineke Ceder.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Grossman, J.M., Black, A.C., Richer, A.M. et al. Parenting Practices and Emerging Adult Sexual Health: The Role of Residential Fathers. J Primary Prevent 40, 505–528 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-019-00560-5
- Emerging adulthood
- Sexual risk-taking
- Sexual behavior
- Teen parent