Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 50–66 | Cite as

Father–Daughter Communication About Sex Moderates the Association Between Exposure to MTV’s 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom and Female Students’ Pregnancy-Risk Behavior

  • Paul J. WrightEmail author
  • Ashley K. Randall
  • Analisa Arroyo
Original Paper


MTV’s hit programs 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have been the subject of national debate since their inception. Supporters contend that the shows inhibit pregnancy-risk behavior. Critics contend that the shows glamorize adolescent motherhood and encourage pregnancy-risk behavior. The present study explored the possibility that the association between viewing 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom and student females’ pregnancy-risk behavior depends on the extent to which females’ parents communicated with them about sex while they were growing up. Survey data were gathered from 313 female students. A disordinal interaction was found between father–daughter sexual communication, viewing frequency, and recent intercourse behavior. Frequent viewing was associated with an increased probability of having engaged in recent intercourse for females whose fathers did not communicate with them about sex while growing up. Conversely, frequent viewing was associated with a decreased probability of having engaged in recent intercourse for females whose fathers often communicated about sex with them while growing up. No interaction was found between mother–daughter sexual communication, viewing frequency, and recent intercourse behavior. These results suggest that fathers may play an especially important role in determining how sexual media socialize their daughters.


16 and Pregnant Teen mom MTV Sexual socialization Pregnancy-risk Sexual communication Family communication 


  1. Abbott, D. A., & Dalla, R. L. (2008). ‘It’s a choice, simple as that’: Youth reasoning for sexual abstinence or activity. Journal of Youth Studies, 11, 629–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abrams, J. R. (2010). Asian American television activity: Is it related to outgroup vitality? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 34, 541–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Abrams, J. R., & Giles, H. (2009). Hispanic television activity: Is it related to vitality perceptions? Communication Research Reports, 26, 247–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Albert, B. (2010). With one voice 2010: America’s adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.Google Scholar
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2001). Sexuality, contraception, and the media. Pediatrics, 107, 191–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Averett, P., Benson, M., & Vaillancourt, K. (2008). Young women’s struggle for sexual agency: The role of parental messages. Journal of Gender Studies, 17, 331–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bauer, K. (2011). What’s being done to cut teen pregnancy rates in Louisville. The Wave. Retrieved from
  10. Bellafante, G. (2009). Real life is like ‘Juno’ except maybe the dialogue. New York Times. Retrieved from
  11. Blinn-Pike, L., Berger, T. J., Hewett, J., & Oleson, J. (2004). Sexually abstinent adolescents: An 18-month follow-up. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19, 495–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brien, T. M., Thombs, D. L., Mahoney, C. A., & Wallnau, L. (1994). Dimensions of self-efficacy among three distinct groups of condom users. Journal of American College Health, 42, 167–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown, J. D., & Steele, J. R. (1995). Sex and the mass media. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation.Google Scholar
  14. Brown, J. D., Steele, J. R., & Walsh-Childers, K. (2002). Preface. In J. Brown, J. R. Steele, & K. Walsh-Childers (Eds.), Sexual teens, sexual media (pp. xi–xiv). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  15. Brown, J. D., Walsh-Childers, K. W., & Waszak, C. S. (1990). Television and adolescent sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 11, 62–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bryant, J., & Rockwell, S. C. (1994). Effects of massive exposure to sexually oriented prime-time television programming on adolescents’ moral judgment. In D. Zillman, J. Bryant, & A. C. Huston (Eds.), Media, children, and the family: Social scientific, psychodynamic, and clinical perspectives (pp. 183–195).Google Scholar
  17. Buckner, E. (2010). Condoms, birth control prove less effective than simple abstinence. Retrieved from
  18. Centers for Disease Control. (2012). Unintended pregnancy prevention: contraception. Retrieved from
  19. Chandra, A., Martino, S. C., Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., et al. (2008). Does watching sex on television predict teen pregnancy? Findings from a national longitudinal survey of youth. Pediatrics, 122, 1047–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Collins, C. L., Angera, J. J., & Latty, C. R. (2008). College aged females’ perceptions of their fathers as sexuality educators. Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, 2, 81–90.Google Scholar
  21. Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., & Hunter, S. B. (2003). Entertainment television as a healthy sex educator: The impact of condom-efficacy information in an episode of Friends. Pediatrics, 112, 1115–1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Collins, R. L., Elliott, M. N., Berry, S. H., Kanouse, D. E., Kunkel, D., Hunter, S. B., et al. (2004). Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 114, 280–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dolgen, L. (2011). Why I created MTV’s ‘16 and Pregnant.’ CNN. Retrieved from
  24. Dunsmore, S. C. (2005). Why abstain from sex? Building and psychometric testing of the sexual abstinence motivation scale (SAMS). Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.Google Scholar
  25. Farrar, K. M. (2006). Sexual intercourse on television: Do safe sex messages matter? Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 50, 635–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Field, A. (2005). Discovering statistics using SPSS. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Finer, L. B., & Henshaw, S. K. (2006). Disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 38, 90–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harper, C., & Ellertson, C. (1995). Knowledge and perceptions of emergency contraceptive pills among a college-age population: A qualitative approach. Family Planning Perspectives, 27, 149–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harwood, J. (1997). Viewing age: Lifespan identity and television viewing choices. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 45, 203–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harwood, J. (1999a). Age identity and television viewing preferences. Communication Reports, 12, 85–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Harwood, J. (1999b). Age identification, social identity gratifications, and television viewing. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 43, 123–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hepburn, E. H. (1983). A three-level model of parent-daughter communication about sexual topics. Adolescence, 18, 523–534.Google Scholar
  33. Hock, H. (2007). The pill and the college attainment of American women and men. Retrieved from
  34. Hutchinson, M. K., & Cooney, T. M. (1998). Patterns of parent-teen sexual risk communication: Implications for intervention. Family Relations, 47, 185–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hutchinson, M. K., & Montgomery, A. J. (2007). Parent communication and sexual risk among African Americans. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 29, 691–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jonsson, P. (2010). A force behind the lower teen birthrate: MTV’s ‘16 and Pregnant.’ Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from LexisNexis.Google Scholar
  37. Kembi, F. D. (2008). Normative perceptions and influential factors on sexual behavior among abstinent college students. University of Georgia: Unpublished doctoral dissertation.Google Scholar
  38. Loewenson, P. R., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M. (2004). Primary and secondary sexual abstinence in high school students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 34, 209–215.Google Scholar
  39. Marcus, L. (2011). What ruined 16 and Pregnant? Teen Mom? Huffington Post. Retrieved from
  40. Mastro, D. (2010). Intergroup communication in the context of tradition media. In H. Giles, S. Reid, & J. Harwood (Eds.), The dynamics of intergroup communication (pp. 195–207). New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.Google Scholar
  41. Meschke, L. L., Bartholomae, S., & Zentall, S. R. (2000). Adolescent sexuality and parent-adolescent processes: Promoting healthy teen choices. Family Relations, 49, 143–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Miller, K. S., Kotchik, B. A., Dorsey, S., Forehand, R., & Ham, A. Y. (1998). Family communication about sex: What are parents saying and are their adolescents listening? Family Planning Perspectives, 30, 218–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2009). Unplanned pregnancy and community colleges. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  44. Nolin, M. J., & Peterson, K. K. (1992). Gender differences in communication about sexuality: An exploratory study. Journal of Adolescent Research, 7, 59–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Peterson, S. H. (2006). The importance of fathers: Contextualizing sexual risk taking in “low-risk” African American adolescent girls. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 13, 67–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Preventing pregnancy. (2012). Retrieved from
  47. Ramist, L. (1981). College student attrition and retention. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.Google Scholar
  48. Roeper, R. (2011). Making celebs of teen moms has drawbacks. Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved from
  49. Rose, J. S., Chassin, L., Presson, C. C., & Sherman, S. J. (2000). Prospective predictors of smoking cessation: A logistic regression application. In J. S. Rose, L. Chassin, C. C. Presson, & S. J. Sherman (Eds.), Multivariate applications in substance use research: New methods for new questions (pp. 289–317). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  50. Ruth, F., & Dotger, S. (2011). Sex education knowledge differences between freshman and senior college undergraduates. College Student Journal, 45, 199–213.Google Scholar
  51. Seidman, R. (2011). MTV delivers sixth consecutive quarter of growth. TV by the Numbers. Retrieved from
  52. Severin, W. J., & Tankard, J. W. (2001). Communication theories. New York, NY: Longman.Google Scholar
  53. Somers, C. L., & Paulson, S. E. (2000). Students’ perceptions of parent-adolescent closeness and communication about sexuality: Relations with sexual knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 629–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Somers, C. L., & Vollmar, W. L. (2006). Parent-adolescent relationships and adolescent sexuality: Closeness, communication, and comfort among diverse U.S. adolescent samples. Social Behavior & Personality, 34, 451–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Strouse, J. S., & Buerkel-Rothfuss, N. L. (1987). Media exposure and the sexual attitudes and behaviors of college students. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 13, 43–51.Google Scholar
  56. Suellentrop, K., Brown, J., & Ortiz, R. (2010). Evaluating the impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on teen viewers’ attitudes about teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.Google Scholar
  57. Vahratian, A., Patel, D. A., Wolff, K., & Xu, X. (2008). College students’ perceptions of emergency contraceptive provision. Journal of Women’s Health, 17, 103–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ward, L. M., Epstein, M., Caruthers, A., & Merriwether, A. (2011). Men’s media use, sexual cognitions, and sexual risk behavior: Testing a meditational model. Developmental Psychology, 47, 592–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Ward, L. M., & Rivadeneyra, R. (1999). Contributions of entertainment television to adolescents’ sexual attitudes and expectations: The role of viewing amount versus viewer involvement. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 237–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Whalen, C. K., Henker, B., Hollingshead, J., & Burgess, S. (1996). Parent-adolescent dialogues about AIDS. Journal of Family Psychology, 10, 343–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wingood, G. M., DiClemente, R. J., Bernhardt, J. M., Harrington, K., Davies, S. L., Robillard, A., et al. (2003). A prospective study of exposure to rap music videos and African American female adolescents’ health. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 437–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wright, P. J. (2009a). Sexual socialization messages in mainstream entertainment mass media: A review and synthesis. Sexuality and Culture, 4, 181–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wright, P. J. (2009b). Father-child sexual communication in the United States: A review and synthesis. Journal of Family Communication, 9, 233–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wright, P. J. (2011). Mass media effects on youth sexual behavior: Assessing the claim for causality. Communication Yearbook, 35, 343–386.Google Scholar
  65. Wright, P. J., Malamuth, N. M., & Donnerstein, E. (2012). Research on sex in the media: What do we know about effects on children and adolescents? In D. G. Singer & J. L. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of children and the media (pp. 273–302). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  66. Wright, P. J., Randall, A. K., & Hayes, J. G. (in press). Predicting the condom assertiveness of collegiate females in the United States from the expanded health belief model. International Journal of Sexual Health. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul J. Wright
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ashley K. Randall
    • 2
  • Analisa Arroyo
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of TelecommunicationsIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family Studies and Human DevelopmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of CommunicationUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

Personalised recommendations