Silence and Censure: A Qualitative Analysis of Young Adults’ Reflections on Communication With Parents Prior to First Sex

Eva Goldfarb, Lisa Lieberman, Samantha Kwiatkowski, Paul Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Seventy-four first- and second-year students, participating in focus groups at a northeastern U.S. university, discussed recollections of messages received at home, prior to sexual debut, about sex and sexuality. Responses were categorized as Characteristics of Communication (nature of interactions participants had at home about sexuality) and Major Message Content (actual themes of those conversations). Commonly reported characteristics were trouble talking with parents; most conversations happened with mothers; participants feared parents’ reactions; and among lesbian, gay, bisexual groups, feared parents’ discovering their nonheterosexual orientation. Commonly reported message content included use protection and, among women, wait. Women reported messages that were at best, mixed, and at worst, threatening or moralistic. Men reported fewer conversations, and those recalled were more neutral or encouraging, especially from fathers. Parental messages to males and females differed qualitatively, reflected stereotypical assumptions about gender roles, desire, and appropriate conditions under which to have sex, and lacked support for nonheterosexual orientations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-54
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018



  • LGBTQ issues
  • communication
  • parent/child Relations
  • qualitative
  • sexuality

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