Adolescent Romance and Sexual Behavior: Examining the Role of Family Structure Duration, Parenting Practices, and Gender

Shannon E. Cavanagh, University of Texas at Austin
Sarah R. Crissey, University of Texas at Austin

Family structure has long been implicated in the sexual lives of adolescents. What is less clear is its role in their romantic lives. Motivated by the significance of romantic relationships for adolescents plus a dearth in knowledge about these relationships, this study investigated the linkages between family structure, measured with respect to the when the family status was initiated, and sexual intercourse and romantic relationships. We also investigated whether family processes mediated these linkages, separately by gender. With a sample drawn from Add Health, family structure was modestly linked with romance but strongly linked with sex. Specifically, girls in stepparent families and those in single parent families initiated after early childhood and boys in single or stepparent families initiated after early childhood were each more likely to engage in sex. Parental attitudes best mediated this link for girls whereas differences in parental social control best mediated this link for boys.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Children and Youth, Adolescence, Parenting, Transition to Adulthood, Life Course