A typology approach to describing parents as communicators about sexuality

Rosenthal, Doreen; Senserrick, Teresa; Feldman, Shirley; Rosenthal, D; Senserrick, T; Feldman, S
October 2001
Archives of Sexual Behavior;Oct2001, Vol. 30 Issue 5, p463
Academic Journal
journal article
Teenagers in Grades 8 and 10 and their parents completed a questionnaire examining the frequency of parental communications about sexuality and the communicative style when discussing sexuality and in general. Respondents also assessed parents' competence in communicating about sexual matters. For each set of respondents (teens reporting about mother, teens reporting about father, mothers' self-reports, fathers' self-reports), a cluster analysis yielded four clusters that were similar for each set. Relative to other parents, there was a group of parents that could be labelled as competent communicators and a group that could be labelled as problematic communicators about sexuality, with strong associations between cluster membership and score on the global measure of communicative competence. There were two intermediate categories that reflected more or less competence although the precise nature of these clusters differed as a function of informant group. Overall, fathers were rated as poorer communicators about sexuality than were mothers, at least by their teenage children. Consistent with other studies, mothers were more likely to be perceived as effective communicators by daughters and older teens. It appears that, independent of their level of competence, parents adjust their communication strategies according to the age and sex of their child, at least in the eyes of that child. Effective and problematic communicators among mothers were regarded as such by both sets of informants. This was not the case for fathers. We conclude that it is possible to classify parents usefully on the basis of perceived competence as communicators about sexuality.


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