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Extended-Family Talk About Sex and Teen Sexual Behavior
* 1 , 2 , 1 , 1
1  Wellesley College
2  Lynch Research Associates


Research shows that family sexuality communication is protective for teens’ risky sexual behavior, but most studies on this topic focus exclusively on the parent-teen dyad. The few studies that assess extended family sexuality communication use a single item to measure this communication and show mixed results as to whether it is associated with sexual risk behaviors for teens. The current study includes cross-sectional survey data from 952 teens in11th and 12th grades. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to assess associations between teens’ sexual risk behaviors and communication with extended family about protection methods, risks of sex and relational approaches to sex. Results showed that for sexually active teens, talk about protection methods was associated with fewer sexual partners and talk about risks of sex was associated with more sexual partners, even after accounting for talk with parents about sex and controlling for teen gender, racial/ethnic background and mothers’ education. Results suggest that extended family talk with teens about sex may protect them from risky sexual behavior over and above effects of teen-parent communication. However, the direction of the effect depends on the content of the conversations. Talk about protection may support teens’ sexual health, while talk with teens who have already had sex about risks of sex may not be effective. These findings suggest the need to explore whether and how extended family could be included in health prevention and intervention programs, which currently focus on parents.

Keywords: adolescent reproductive health; family communication; extended family; teen sexual behavior
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