Date of Award

December 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Mike Allen

Committee Members

Erin Ruppel, Erin Parcell, Sang-Yeon Kim


family communication, meta-analysis, parent-child sexual communication, sexual communication, sexual risk, sexual risk prevention


This meta-analysis examines the effect of parent-child sexual communication (PCSC) on sexual risk behaviors and outcomes during adolescence. Results confirm that PCSC increases risk prevention strategies and reduces sexually risky behaviors with corresponding reductions in unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI). Moderating variables include extent of communication, the content of PCSC interactions, operationalization of risk, timing of the interaction, biological sex of the adolescent, the dyadic composition of the parent-child interaction (e.g., mother-daughter, father-son), and the racial or ethnic makeup of the sample. The frequency, depth, and breadth of PCSC interactions, and inclusion of descriptive/instructional and contraception/risk information are associated with a reduction in sexual risk. PCSC appears most effective in promoting communication-based risk reduction strategies and barrier contraceptive use, and contributes to lower incidence of unplanned pregnancies. PCSC is moderately associated with composite safe sex or sexual risk scores, an important reminder to researchers that sexual risk manifestation varies distinctly at the individual level. PCSC in same-sex parent-child dyads is associated with lower levels of sexual risk than that in cross-sex dyads.