The last decade has witnessed important growth in research on family communications about sex and sexuality. This volume critically examines the assumption that parental communication plays an important role in helping children make good sexual decisions and act on them. It expands on earlier reviews by proposing a theoretical framework in a field that has largely been notable for its atheoretical approach, by providing methodological alternatives, by going beyond the expert–novice perspective to address communication from the young person s point of view, and by evaluating interventions designed to help parents become better communicators about this difficult, sensitive, and complex topic. It also presents new empirical work on the neglected topics of fathers involvement in sex–related communications with their children and teen–initiated communications by gay youth as they inform their parents about their sexual orientation.
This is the 97th issue of the Jossey–Bass series New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development.
1. Parent–Adolescent Communication About Sex and BirthControl: A Conceptual Framework (James Jaccard, Tonya Dodge, Patricia Dittus):This chapter presents a conceptual framework for understandingparent–child sex–related communications and interprets existing findingswithin the context of this framework.
2. Beyond the Yes–No Question: Measuring Parent–AdolescentCommunication About Sex (Eva S. Lefkowitz):This chapter critically examines both the conceptualization of and themethods by which we assess parent–child communication about sexuality.Specific suggestions are proposed that will result in more differentiatedand more valid measures.
3. Talking to a Tiger: Fathers Reveal Their Difficulties inCommunicating About Sexuality with Adolescents (Maggie Kirkman, Doreen A. Rosenthal, S. Shirley Feldman):This chapter focuses on fathers, a topic much ignored in the study ofsex–related communication with teenagers. Using qualitative methodologybased on interviews with fathers, mothers, and adolescents, itreveals that fathers difficulties result from two important but conflictingdiscourses traditional masculinity and involved fatherhood.
4. It s a Catch–22 : Same–Sex–Attracted Young People onComing Out to Parents (Lynne Hillier):This chapter explores teen–initiated communication with parents abouta very specific and usually unwelcome topic of teen sexuality namely,attraction to a member of the same sex. The author reports the resultsof a qualitative study on teen and parent reactions.
5. Interventions Designed to Promote Parent–TeenCommunication About Sexuality (Douglas Kirby, Brent C. Miller):This chapter evaluates different kinds of programs that facilitate parentchildcommunication about sexual topics and shows that althoughcommunication between parents and children can be increased by suchinterventions, the effects do not appear either to last over time or tochange adolescent sex–related behaviors.
S. SHIRLEY FELDMAN is senior research scientist, Division of Child Psychiatry and Behavior, and associate director, Program in Human Biology, at Stanford University, Stanford, California.
DOREEN A. ROSENTHAL is associate dean (research) in the Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.