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Parents as Moderators of Longitudinal Associations between Sexual Peer Norms and Dutch Adolescents’ Sexual Initiation and Intention

  • van de Bongardt, Daphne
  • de Graaf, Hanneke
  • Reitz, Ellen
  • Deković, Maja1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2, 3, 7, 2, 3
  • 1 PhD Candidate at the Department of Child and Adolescent Studies
  • 2 Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
  • 3 Utrecht University
  • 4 Senior consultant / researcher at Rutgers WPF
  • 5 Centre of Expertise on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
  • 6 Assistant Professor at the Department of Child and Adolescent Studies
  • 7 Professor at the Department of Child and Adolescent Studies
Published Article
Journal of Adolescent Health
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
Accepted Date
Feb 24, 2014
DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.02.017


PurposeThe current study investigated how parents and peers interact in promoting or delaying Dutch adolescents’ sexual initiation and intention, and focused specifically on parents as moderators of peer influence. MethodsUsing a longitudinal design, two waves of online questionnaire data were collected among 900 Dutch adolescents (M = 13.8 years at T1), who were sexually inexperienced at baseline. At T1, participants reported on three types of perceived sexual peer norms: friends’ sexual behaviors (descriptive norms), friends’ sexual attitudes (injunctive norms), and experienced peer pressure to have sex. They also rated two parenting aspects at T1: the general quality of their relationship with parents, and the frequency of sexuality-specific communication with their parents. Six months later, participants reported on their experience with different sexual behaviors ranging from naked touching or caressing to intercourse, and their intention to have sex in the next school year. ResultsRelationship quality with parents was significantly associated with both outcomes, with a higher relationship quality predicting smaller odds of sexual initiation, and less intention to have sex. Two significant interaction effects showed that frequent sexual communication with parents significantly reduced the effects of sexually active friends and experienced peer pressure on adolescents’ intention to have sex. ConclusionsOur findings show that different types of sexual peer norms, and both general and sexuality-specific parenting play an important role in the early stages of Dutch adolescents’ sexual trajectories. Moreover, parent-adolescent communication about sexuality can function as a buffer for the sex-stimulating effects of sexual peer norms.

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