1983 Cuyahoga County, Ohio Familial Communication and Adolescent Sexual Behavior Project
Investigators: Janet R. Kahn

This study examines the extent of parent-child communication about sexuality and the relative importance of that communication to the child's sexual behavior and attitudes at adolescence. In 1976, the Project on Human Sexual Development (PHSD) conducted a major study on family life and sexual learning, involving personal interviews with over 1,400 parents of young children in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The present study is a continuation of that work. Three hundred twenty-six (326) adolescent children aged 12-18 were interviewed. The adolescent respondents were drawn from two subsamples: (1) PHSD families; and (2) a supplemental sample of families living in the same areas in 1983 that did not participate in the PHSD. Parents of participating adolescents were asked to complete questionnaires providing updates on their perspectives; 71% of mothers and 56% of fathers did so. The project had four essential purposes: (1) to add to the descriptive information gathered earlier on the timing and content of parent-child communication about sexuality; (2) to create a model of factors associated with successful parent-child communication about sexuality; (3) to develop a second model examining the role of this communication and other factors in influencing adolescents' sexual behavior, knowledge and attitudes; and (4) to look at parents' use and need for assistance in their roles as sex educators of their children to provide information that can be used by those organizations seeking to help families with this important aspect of life. The teenagers were asked to respond to a variety of questions including family composition, educational background and aspirations, family closeness, religiosity, friendship networks, discussions with parents, sexual knowledge, sexual behaviors ranging from kissing to intercourse, reactions to sexuality, histories of intercourse patterns and birth control usage. Parents were asked to provide information on socioeconommic status, changes in family composition, marital status and employment, discussions of sexual topics, parental values, sex role attitudes, and sources of sex education assistance.

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