ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2007, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (06): 1063-1073.

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The Influence of Parent-Teen Communication about Sex on Adolescents’ Sexual Attitude and Behavior: Parent-teen Attachment Style as a Moderator

Wang Zhengyan,Zhao Dongyan,Lie Li   

  1. Department of Psychology, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100089, China
  • Received:2006-06-20 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2007-11-30 Online:2007-11-30
  • Contact:

    Wang Zhengyan

Abstract: The influence of parent-teen communication on adolescents’ sexual behavior had been examined in a number of studies. Previous findings have suggested that parent-teen communication is related to lower levels of adolescents’ engagement in sexual risk-taking behavior. Howefer, little is known about this issue in Chinese parents and adolescents. A large portion of Chinese parents (41.65%) thinks that sex education is useless in the family. 33.20% Chinese parents believe that adolescents can teach themselves about sex. Others feel embarrassed when talking about sex with their children. In sum, few studies have examined the role Chinese parents in adolescents’ sexual behavior. Therefore, this study focused on examining how parental communication about sex influences adolescents’ sexual attitude and behavior in China.
We hypothesized that due to the extreme-privacy nature of sex behaviors in China, little or no communication would take place unless parents and adolescents trusted each other. Past studies have shown that adolescents with a secure attachment style trust their parents more than those with an insecure attachment style. Therefore, parent-child secure and insecure attachment may play a moderating role in the relations between parent-teen communication and adolescents’ sex behavior.
A sample of adolescents (497 girls, 350 boys) from Beijing, China, aged from 15 to 19 years (mean age 16.36 years) , participated in the study. The self-report measures included 1) Openness of communication, 2) communicational comfort about sexual topics, 3) adolescent sexual behavior and attitude, and 4) parent-child attachment style were administered to the adolescents.
Two 2 (gender) × 4 (occupations) × 4 (education) multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) were run for mother and father respectively to examine the effects of gender of adolescent, parent occupations, and parent’s level of education on communication openness and comfort. Two significant main effects of gender had been revealed. No significant 2 way or 3-way (gender x occupations× education) interactions were found. The following up ANOVAs indicated significant main effects of gender for both father and mother on communication comfort. Boys scored higher on communication comfort than girls, regardless of whether it was mother of farther they communicated with. A further structure equation modeling analysis first revealed that communication openness significantly, and negatively predicted adolescents’ sexual behavior (including kiss, touch, hug and sexual intercourse) and positively predicted adolescents’ negative attitudes about peers’ sexual behaviors. However, communication comfort significantly and negatively predicted adolescents’ disagreement on peers’ sexual behaviors. Second, parents’ attachment moderated the effect of communication openness on adolescent sexuality, specifically, strengthening the negative relation between communication openness and adolescent sexuality.
Taken together, for adolescents who were insecurely attached with parents, communication openness was more negatively related to their sexual behavior, comparing to those who were securely attached. This may be because openness in communication between parents and adolescents has an inhibiting effect on adolescent’s sexuality in families where adolescents’ attachment with father and mother were both insecure. In other words, in families with an insecure parent-child attachment style (esp. single father/mother family, divorced family, disorganized family and so on), adolescents whose parents communicated more sexual topics with them are more likely to develop patterns of conservative sexual attitudes and reduced sexual behaviors.

Key words: parent-teen communication, sexual topic, sexual behavior, sexual attitude, parent-teen attachment style

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