Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Aryn M. Dotterer


Aryn M. Dotterer


David G. Schramm


Kay Bradford


In the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 5 children will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. To reduce child sexual abuse more effectively and to increase positive sex attitudes and behaviors, a change is needed in how individuals and society view and discuss sexual health and sex education. Parents are in a powerful and readily available role to teach sexual topics in a positive way, but many are lacking sexual knowledge and confidence in their ability to address sexual topics with their children. This study looked at how personal and contextual factors relate to confidence in parental sexual communication and tested the effects of an active learning intervention to increase parental confidence regarding sexual communication with young children aged one- to five-years-old.

Parents in the study were recruited mainly from social media, local non-profit agencies, and connections with USU Extension. Parents who took the pretest assessment were assigned into one of three groups: a control group (55 participants who received no additional information), a factsheet only group (58 participants who received a two-page factsheet of information on child sexual development), or an active learning group (56 participants who received a one-hour long interactive online presentation with information on child sexual development). Those who completed the pre- and post-test assessments were compared between assigned groups to examine increases in parental confidence regarding sexual communication, parental knowledge of child sexual development, and frequency of sexual communication with their children.

Results from the pretest (n = 279) showed that parents’ experience of sexual trauma was related to greater sexual communication confidence. Pretest results also showed that parents who reported more general sexual knowledge and more child sexual development knowledge also reported greater parental confidence in sexual communication. Post-test mixed-design analysis of variance (n = 117) showed the information provided to the fact sheet and active learning group was not effective at increasing parental sexual communication confidence, however both groups showed gains in knowledge of child sexual development. This study was largely exploratory and should be built upon to attain the goals of promoting lifelong sexual health and healthy positive attitudes.