Parent-Adolescent Communication and Adolescents' Sexual Intentions

Julie A. Bowen, Utah State University


This study investigated the quality and quantity of sexual communication between teens and parents in relation to the teens' sexual intentions. Perceptions about communication were examined of parents and adolescents of both genders separately. Both same- and cross-gender effects of parental communication on adolescent sexual intentions were explored. Approximately 290 families (target teen and parent) were measured in pre- and posttests. Parents perceived higher quality communication with teens than teens did, but not necessarily more frequent sexual communication. As teens' perceptions of quality of communication with mother and father went up, teens' sexual intentions went down. The higher sons' intention toward early sexual involvement, the more often sons perceived that their parents talked with them about sexual issues. Daughters who perceived more sexual communication with parents at Time 1 reported higher sexual intentions at Time 2. Fathers perceived that as quality and frequency of communication with daughter went up, the daughter's sexual intentions also went up. Fathers perceived that as frequency of communication with all teens went up, the teen's sexual intentions also went up. Mothers perceived that the higher the quality of communication with sons at Time 1, the higher the sexual intentions among sons at Time 2. The more often mothers perceived that their daughters talked with them about sexual issues at Time 1, the higher the daughters' intention toward early sexual involvement at Time 2. The more the discrepancy between teens and fathers and mothers about c communication quality, the more the adolescents' intention toward early sexual involvement.