Parenting, Communication about Sexuality, and the Development of Adolescent Womens’ Sexual Agency: A Longitudinal Assessment
Sexual agency (i.e., the ability to make decisions and assertions related to one’s own sexuality) is associated with sexual health enhancing outcomes. Given that young women are expected to act passively, rather than with agency when it comes to sexual encounters, the present study aimed to explore whether parental support, knowledge, and communication about sexuality during late adolescence contribute to an enhancement of sexual agency in a sample of young women in the long-term. Using a longitudinal design (panel study), 320 female participants who participated in three data collection waves (T1, T2, and T5) were included in the analyses (Mage = 16.2 years, SD = 0.50 at baseline). Mediated by the frequency of parents’ communication about sexuality with their daughters, both dimensions of parental support (emotional engagement and support of autonomy) positively predicted adolescent women’s sexual agency two years later. In contrast, parental knowledge of their children’s whereabouts was unrelated to communication and female sexual agency. Specific dimensions of parenting seem to play a crucial role in empowering adolescent girls to act agentic through communicating, emotional support, and encouraging autonomy, which in turn may contribute to healthy sexual behavior in young adulthood.
KeywordsAdolescent women Sexual agency Parental support Communication about sexuality Longitudinal assessment
V.K., I.B., and A.S. conceived of the study, participated in its design; and coordination, interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; A.S. participated in the coordination of the study, performed the measurement; and performed the statistical analysis. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This work has been funded by Croatian Science Foundation grant number 9221 awarded to the third author. The first author received an Erasmus STA-scholarship (Staff Mobility–Teaching Assignment) for a research stay at the University of Zagreb, Croatia.
Data Sharing Declaration
The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Byrne, B. M. (2010). Structural Equation Modeling with AMOS (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Crosby, R. A., DiClemente, R. J., Wingood, G. M., & Harrington, K. (2002). HIV/STD prevention benefits of living in supportive families: A prospective analysis of high risk African-American female teens. American Journal of Health Promotion, 16, 142–145. https://doi.org/10.4278/0890-1171-16.3.142.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- de Graaf, H., Vanwesenbeeck, I., Woertman, L., Keijsers, L., Meijer, S., & Meeus, W. (2010). Parental support and knowledge and adolescents’ sexual health: Testing two mediational models in a national dutch sample. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 189–198. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-008-9387-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Emmerink, P. M. J., Vanwesenbeeck, I., van den Eijnden, R. J. J. M., & ter Bogt, T. F. M. (2016). Psychosexual correlates of sexual double standard endorsement in adolescent sexuality. The Journal of Sex Research, 53, 286–297. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2015.1030720.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Fine, M., & McClelland, S. I. (2006). Sexuality education and desire: Still missing after all these years. Harvard Educational Review, 76, 297–338. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.76.3.w5042g23122n6703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gagnon, J., & Simon, W. (1973). Sexual conduct: The social origins of human sexuality. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
- Hewitt-Stubbs, G., Zimmer-Gembeck, M., Mastro, S., & Boislard, M. -A. (2016). A longitudinal study of sexual entitlement and self-efficacy among young women and men: Gender differences and associations with age and sexual experience. Behavioral Sciences, 6, 4 https://doi.org/10.3390/bs6010004.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Katz-Wise, S. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2014). Sexuality and gender: The interplay. In Deborah L. T. and Lisa M. D. (Eds), APA handbook of sexuality and psychology, Washington DC: American Psychological Association (pp. 29–62).Google Scholar
- Keresteš, G., Brković, I., Greblo, G., & Z., K. J. (2012). Razvoj i validacija upitnika roditeljskog ponašanja (development and validation of the parental behavior questionnaire; in Croatian). Suvremena Psihologija, 15, 23–41.Google Scholar
- Landripet, I., Štulhofer, A., & Baćak, V. (2011). Changes in human immunodeficiency virus and sexually transmitted infections-related sexual risk taking among young Croatian adults: 2005 and 2010 population-based surveys. Croatian Medical Journal, 52, 458–468. https://doi.org/10.3325/cmj.2011.52.458.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Little, T. D. (2013). Longitudinal Structural Equation Modeling. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Lyons, H., Giordano, P. C., Manning, W. D., & Longmore, M. A. (2011). Identity, peer relationships, and adolescent girls’ sexual behavior: An exploration of the contemporary double standard. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 437–449. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2010.506679.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Maccoby, E., Martin, J. (1983). Socialization in the context of the family. Parent-child interaction. In E. M. Hetherington (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (vol. 4, pp. 1–101). New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Robinson, B.‘B. E., Bockting, W. O., Simon Rosser, B. R., Miner, M., & Coleman, E. (2002). The sexual health model: application of a sexological approach to HIV prevention. Health Education Research, 17, 43–57. https://doi.org/10.1093/her/17.1.43.Google Scholar
- Rowe, S., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Rudolph, J., & Nesdale, D. (2015). A longitudinal study of rejecting and autonomy-relevant parenting, rejection sensitivity, and socioemotional symptoms in early adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43, 1107–1118. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-014-9966-6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Sanchez, D. T., Fetterolf, J. C., & Rudman, L. A. (2012). Eroticizing inequality in the United States: The consequences and determinants of traditional gender role adherence in intimate relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 49, 168–183. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2011.653699.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Schouten, B. C., van den Putte, B., Pasmans, M., & Meeuwesen, L. (2007). Parent–adolescent communication about sexuality: The role of adolescents’ beliefs, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control. Patient Education and Counseling, 66, 75–83. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.PEC.2006.10.010.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Soenens, B., Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., Luyckx, K., Goossens, L., & Beyers, W., et al. (2007). Conceptualizing parental autonomy support: Adolescent perceptions of promotion of independence versus promotion of volitional functioning. Developmental Psychology, 43, 633–646. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2063.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Tolman, D. L., Dilemmas of desire: teenage girls talk about sexuality. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Tomić, I., Burić, J., & Štulhofer, A. (2017). Associations between Croatian adolescents’ use of sexually explicit material and sexual behavior: Does parental monitoring play a role? Archives of Sexual Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-1097-z.
- van de Bongardt, D., Yu, R., Deković, M., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2015). Romantic relationships and sexuality in adolescence and young adulthood: The role of parents, peers, and partners. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 497–515. https://doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2015.1068689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Van Petegem, S., Brenning, K., Baudat, S., Beyers, W., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2018). Intimacy development in late adolescence: Longitudinal associations with perceived parental autonomy support and adolescents’ self-worth. Journal of Adolescence, 65, 111–122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2018.03.008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Welsh, D. P., Rostosky, S. S., & Kawaguchi, M. C. (2000). A normative perspective of adolescent girls’ developing sexuality. In C. B. Travis & J. W. White (Eds.), Psychology of women; 4. Sexuality, society, and feminism (pp. 111–140). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. 10.1037/10345-005.Google Scholar
- World Health Organization (WHO). (2002). Defining sexual health: report of a technical consultation on sexual health, 28–31 January 2002, Geneva. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar