Few studies longitudinally investigate parent-teen communication about sex, and data are particularly sparse regarding parent-child communication during emerging adulthood.
This study assesses continuity and change in parent-child sexuality communication over three time points, from adolescence to emerging adulthood. It uses interview data from 15 parents in the U.S. at three time points over an eight-year period from 2012 to 2019 (when the teen was in 7th grade, when the teen was in 10th grade, and after the teen finished high school).
The researchers’ findings showed that parents continued to talk with their emerging adult children about sex and relationships. Whereas the topics of conversation were similar over time, the content shifted, with a growing focus on specific relationships and situations. Parents described the gender of their teen/emerging adult children as important in shaping their comfort in talking with them about sex and relationships.
These findings suggest that emerging adulthood may provide ongoing opportunities for parents and their children to talk in open and connected ways about sex and relationships. Programs that support family communication about these topics could expand to address the changing needs of adolescents and emerging adults as they develop, and the ongoing role of parents in supporting their children’s health beyond adolescence.
This work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: R03HD095029 and by Wellesley Centers for Women.