Project Director: Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D.
Funded by: National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development
Family communication about sex can reduce risky sexual behaviors, but most studies focus only on the teen-parent dyad. High levels of extended-family involvement in childrearing and sexuality communication, such as with grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings and cousins, and “fictive kin,” especially in Black and Latino families, suggest the importance of assessing this under-studied influence. This mixed-methods study will undertake the first comprehensive assessment of teens’ extended-family sexuality communication and its associations with sexual behavior, and includes extended family perspectives in order to apply quantitative findings to prevention and intervention programs. The study applies an established conceptual model of parent-teen sexuality communication to extended family, which recognizes both direct talk about sex and indirect (less straightforward) sexuality communication, which predict teens’ sexual beliefs and behaviors. The significance of this work lies in its comprehensive focus on the full range of partners in family sexuality communication, assessing whether this communication is helpful or harmful to teens’ sexual health. It contributes to public health by guiding action steps for how extended family influence on teen sexual health can direct inclusion of larger family systems, beyond the nuclear family, into prevention and intervention programs.