Black father and son in conversation

The Wellesley Centers for Women recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study fathers’ communication with their teens about sex and relationships, and whether these conversations can protect teens from risky sexual behavior.

“Most research and teen health education programs focus exclusively on mothers’ communication with their teens,” said Senior Research Scientist Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study. “We’re excited to take an in-depth look at the role fathers play in conversations about sex and relationships, and under what conditions those conversations can support their teens’ health.”

The study, which will run through 2022, will use secondary survey data from 952 urban high school students and new interviews with 30 fathers and their families (15 teens and 15 second parents are expected to participate). Fathers’ perspectives on communication with their teens about sex and relationships will be analyzed and compared across contexts, along with the perspectives of other family members – another unique aspect of the study.

“This work is significant because it assesses whether and how father-teen sexuality communication predicts teens’ sexual health, and because it involves in-depth assessment of this communication from multiple perspectives,” says Grossman, who leads the Family, Sexuality, and Communication research initiative at WCW. “Our findings will provide strategies to guide father-teen programs on how to support family communication and to understand the roles of gender and culture in this process.”


This project is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R21HD100807. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


September 29, 2020

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