2020 - 2022

Principal Investigator: Jennifer M. Grossman, Ph.D.

Project Staff: Lisette M. DeSouza, Ph.D., and Amanda Richer, M.A.

Funded by: National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development

Risky sexual behaviors have high personal, social, and financial costs. Family communication about sex can reduce risky sexual behaviors, but most research and teen health education programs focus exclusively on mothers and don’t address low rates of father-teen communication about sex. These gaps fail to address both the potential of father-teen communication to protect teens from risky sexual behavior and the strategies needed to support it. In addition, few studies provide multiple perspectives on this communication or investigate the feasibility of father-teen sexuality communication interventions. 

This mixed-methods study includes multiple family members’ perspectives on father-teen sexuality communication, and initial assessment of feasibility and acceptability of father-teen intervention. The study applies an established conceptual model of mother-teen sexuality communication to fathers. It involves three aims: 1) assess under what conditions father-teen sexuality communication is associated with teen sexual behaviors, 2) investigate contexts of fathers’ direct and indirect sexuality communication and initial feasibility of father-teen intervention, and 3) triangulate fathers’, teens’, and second parents’ perceptions of father-teen sexuality communication. The study is part of the Family, Sexuality, and Communication research initiative at WCW.

Methodology:

To address these aims, this study 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). Content analysis will be used to explore contexts of fathers’ direct and indirect communication with teens and initial feasibility of father-teen intervention. Multiple family members’ perspectives on father-teen communication will also be analyzed.

Implications: 

This work is significant because it assesses under what conditions father-teen sexuality communication predicts teens’ sexual health, and because it involves in-depth assessment of this communication from multiple perspectives. This study contributes to public health by guiding programs regarding 1) the conditions of communication which can support teens’ health, 2) fathers’ and their families’ perceptions of barriers to and supports for father-teen communication, and 3) preliminary feasibility and acceptability of intervention development. Its innovation lies in a triangulation approach which integrates multiple family members’ perspectives on father-teen sexuality communication and in its inclusion of fathers who do not talk with teens about sex. This project will fill key knowledge gaps in father-teen communication to enable the development of an intervention.

This project was 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.

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