Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts Degree

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Goncy, Elizabeth

Second Advisor

Shareen Naser

Third Advisor

Katherine Clonan-Roy

Abstract

The purpose of the present study is to examine how parental sexual communication, including sexual education taught in the home, and parental-adolescent relationship quality are associated with adolescent risky sexual behaviors and mental health outcomes. The study hypothesizes that (A) higher levels of parental-adolescent relationship quality will be related to a decrease in adolescent risky sexual behaviors, (B) sexual communication between the parental figure and adolescent combined with sexual education taught in the home will act as a moderator on the relationship between parental-adolescent relationship quality and adolescent risky sexual behaviors, (C) adolescents who report higher levels of risky sexual behavior will be more likely to report higher levels of poor mental health outcomes (i.e., higher levels of anxiety and depression), and (D) parental-adolescent relationship quality will act as a moderator on the relationship between risky sexual behaviors and mental health outcomes. A total of N=78 participants completed an online survey that assessed parental-adolescent relationship quality, risky sexual behavior, sexual communication, and mental health outcomes. Parental-adolescent relationship quality was not associated with risky sexual behaviors. Additionally, sexual communication did not moderate this association. Although there was no support for an association between increased risky sexual iii behaviors and poorer mental health outcomes, parental-adolescent relationship quality did moderate this association. Increased engagement in risky sexual behaviors was associated with poorer mental health outcomes regardless of parental-adolescent relationship quality. Parental-adolescent relationship quality may impact risky sexual behavior and therapeutic interventions to curb these behaviors could focus on overall relationship quality between adolescents and their parents. To help protect adolescents from poorer mental health outcomes, future research should examine the role of risky sexual behaviors on mental health.

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