Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Communication Monographs 85:3 (2018), pp 357–379.

doi 10.1080/03637751.2018.1426870


Copyright © 2018 National Communication Association. Published by Routledge/Taylor&Francis. Used by permission.


This study examined adolescents’ (n = 389) perceptions of parent– adolescent communication about sex, including what their parents say about sex, what types of conversations adolescents report as memorable, the degree to which messages are perceived as effective, and how parental messages predict adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behaviors. Six conversation types emerged: underdeveloped, safety, comprehensive talk, warning/ threat, wait, and no talk. When adolescents were asked to report how those could have been improved, five types emerged from the analysis of their responses: no change, be more specific/provide guidance, talk to me, appropriateness, and collaborate. Comprehensive talk and safety were perceived as significantly more effective than all other types of conversations. Safety conversations predicted the lowest levels of permissive sexual attitudes and risk-taking.