Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 219–229 | Cite as

“Talk More About It”: Emerging Adults’ Attitudes About How and When Parents Should Talk About Sex

  • Katrina L. Pariera
  • Evan Brody


Sexual communication from parents is crucial to healthy sexual well-being in young people, yet there is a dearth of research offering evidence-based guidelines for how and when parent-child sexual communication should take place. The perspective of youth on what works and when conversations should happen is also largely absent from the literature. We conducted a mixed-methods study on emerging adults’ (N = 441) beliefs about the ideal age and frequency for parents to discuss sex-related topics, and about their parents’ strengths and weaknesses in sexual communication. Most participants reported that parents should talk about sex frequently, early, and on a wide variety of topics. They also recommended parents to be open, honest, and realistic when talking to their children about sex. We discuss implications for how to reposition parents to engage in successful sexual communication, and thus improve sexual health and well-being for young people.


Sexual communication Self-determination Theory Sexual attitudes Sexuality education Sexual orientation 



The authors would like to thank Irissa Cisternino for her assistance with this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Organizational Sciences and CommunicationThe George Washington UniversityWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin La CrosseLa CrosseUSA

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