Communication with family members about sex can protect teens from risky sexual behavior, but most research focuses on teens’ communication with parents. Extended family members may also support teens’ health, though teens’ perspectives on communication with extended family about sex have been little explored.
This study’s aims were to examine similarities and differences in the frequency and content of teens’ communication with extended family and parents about sex and to assess whether the content of this communication differs based on teens’ gender.
The researchers analyzed survey data from 952 11th and 12th graders (55% female, 52% Latinx) in the U.S. They assessed three types of family talk about sex: communication about “risks of sex” addresses negative consequences of sex; communication about “protection” involves ways teens can guard against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; and “relational sex” communication addresses sex within the context of a close relationship.
The researchers found that teens were just as likely to report talk with extended family members as parents about sex. Teens’ conversations with parents were more focused on sexual risk and protection, while conversations with extended family focused on relational sex topics. Girls were more likely to talk about protection and relational sex with extended family, while boys talked more often with parents about these topics. These findings highlight the potential of extended family to support the healthy development of teens, especially girls.
This study was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: R21HD088955. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.