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Marital Quality and Parent-Adolescent Relationships: Effects on Sexual Activity Among Adolescents and Young Adults

Publication Date
Nov 14, 2008

The link between growing up outside of an intact family, and the likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviors as an adolescent has been explored extensively. But fewer studies examine the age of onset of sexual activity and the likelihood of risky sexual behaviors among adolescents within intact families, specifically married-parent families, and which elements of married-parent families seem to function as protective factors for adolescents. This study takes an extensive look at relationship characteristics within married-parent families — that is, the parent marital relationship, the youth-parent relationship, and the interaction of the two — to identify the family context that might influence adolescents sexual activity. Parental marital relationships were characterized both with respect to level of supportive qualities as well as degree of conflict, and the youth's relationship with each parent was characterized as positive or negative. The study uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort (NLSY97), a nationally representative sample of adolescents who are being followed into adulthood. Predictors include youth reports on the quality of parent marital relationship and quality of parent-adolescent relationships (i.e., mother-adolescent and father-adolescent), marital structure, and a number of contextual covariates and control variables. [42 PDF pages]