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Fam Process. 2010 Jun;49(2):251-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2010.01321.x.

Beyond the "birds and the bees": gender differences in sex-related communication among urban African-American adolescents.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


The current study examined gender differences in communication about sex-related topics in a community sample of urban, African-American mothers and adolescents living in impoverished neighborhoods with high HIV rates. One hundred and sixty-two mother-adolescent dyads completed self-report measures of sex-related communication. Youth also reported on their sexual risk. We identified the range of sexual-based topics that adolescents discussed with their mothers, fathers, friends, and at school. The relationship between the frequency of sexual communication and sexual risk was examined. We also investigated congruency between adolescent and mother report about whether sexual-based discussions occurred. Consistent with prior research, girls talked to their mothers, fathers, friends, and at school about sex-related topics more than boys. Findings indicated that mothers not only communicated more frequently about sexual issues with their daughters than sons but that parental messages for girls were more protective. Greater sexual communication with mother was significantly associated with decreased HIV risk in the past 90 days and increased protection from HIV. Inconsistencies between mother and adolescent reports about sexual communication were marginally associated with decreased protection from HIV. Findings reveal the protective effect of sexual communication and the general lack of congruence between mother and adolescent reports of sexual communication.

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