Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

July 2001


Published in Culture, Health & Sexuality 3:3 (July 2001), pp. 295–310. Copyright © 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd. Used by permission.


Compared to other ethnic groups in the USA, Latino populations are at high risk for negative sexual outcomes, including unplanned pregnancy and HIV/AIDS infection. The goal of this study was to explore the role of cultural beliefs and values in sexual socialization by focusing on the family socialization of adolescent romantic and sexual behavior described by 22 Latina/Hispanic women who took part in in-depth individual interviews. Four broad themes were explored: parental concerns regarding dating, family communication about sexual issues, family rules about dating, and actual dating and sexual experiences. Consistent with traditional cultural views, female romantic involvement outside of marriage was described as potentially dishonourable to the family. Because US-style dating was seen as a violation of traditional courtship styles, most of the respondents’ families placed strict boundaries on adolescent sociosexual interaction. As a result, many respondents described adolescent experiences of dating characterized by tension and conflict, and reported vulnerability in eventual sexual encounters. In order to better understand the sexual behavior of young Latina women in the USA, researchers must examine sexual socialization within the family of origin and take parents’ culturally-influenced beliefs and practises into account.