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The Big Talk: Exploring Parents', Attitudes, Beliefs and Approaches Toward Discussing Sexuality With Their Children

Littlejohn, Brittany Lauren (2011) The Big Talk: Exploring Parents', Attitudes, Beliefs and Approaches Toward Discussing Sexuality With Their Children. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Background: Engaging in sexual behavior at an early age increases a person's number of lifetime partners, which consequently increases the risk for contracting an STI. Early sex initiation has been identified as a risk factor for teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy is a public health issue as it is a risk factor for disease, poverty, and poor educational outcomes (Corcororan, 1998). Previous studies have found discussions between parents and children about sexual activity to have a positive effect on a child's decision-making regarding sex and condom use. However, few studies have examined the content of such conversations and factors considered by parents when deciding what will be discussed. Objective: The purpose of this study is to explore the ways in which parents communicate with their children about sexuality and to gain a better understanding of what parents think their children should know about sexual intercourse and related issues such as pregnancy, birth control, HIV/AIDS and other STIs. Methodology: Nine one-on-one interviews were conducted with parents of children between the ages of nine and 17 from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. Participants were recruited through community organizations and informal social networks. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded. Analysis used Grounded Theory. Results: Most parents felt it was important to talk to their children about sex, pregnancy, HIV and other STI's. However, multiple social factors served as barriers to this discussion. Overall, parents considered the maturity of the child as an important factor to consider. They also understood their child's autonomy regarding making decisions about when to initiate first sex and noted the importance of being open and honest with their children. Cultural and gender differences were also discussed. Conclusions: Parents should be encouraged to talk openly and honestly with their child about sexuality. Interventions with this aim should consider coaching parents on what should be discussed at each stage of development. Public Health Significance: It is important to examine how and why parents choose to discuss sexuality with their children. In doing so, public health professionals will be able to identify facilitators and barriers to these types of discussions and develop interventions with a focus on increasing parents' motivation and ability to effectively communicate with their children about sexuality. Thereby decreasing rates of adverse health effects associated with risky sexual behavior among adolescents.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Littlejohn, Brittany
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTerry, Martha Annmaterry@pitt.eduMATERRY
Committee MemberBurke, Jessicajgburke@pitt.eduJGBURKE
Committee MemberGoodkind, Sarahsag51@pitt.eduSAG51
Date: 31 January 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 3 December 2010
Approval Date: 31 January 2011
Submission Date: 1 December 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: dispairites; gender; prevention
Other ID:, etd-12012010-130420
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:07
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:52


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