Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Peter A. Vanable


adolescents, African American, communication, sexual risk behavior

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


African American adolescents continue to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sexual risk reduction efforts have focused on family-level sexual health communication, although they have yielded inconsistent findings. Using dyadic data from African American parents and their children (n= 298), the present study sought to elucidate the influence of sexual health communication on adolescent sexual behavior. Findings confirmed that adolescent reports of family-level sex communication were associated with greater sexual involvement, whereas parent reports of sexual health communication showed no associations to child sexual behavior. Including parent reports of communication did not enhance predictive models of adolescent sexual behavior beyond the variance explained by adolescent report. Congruence between parent and adolescent reports of sexual health communication was only moderate in the current sample. Further, communication report congruence moderated the association between communication and adolescent sexual risk. Among participants showing high congruence, sexual health communication was positively associated with adolescent condom use. Findings suggest that relational characteristics may influence the extent to which family-level sex communication is associated with sexual risk reduction and affirm the importance of family-level research as one approach to improving sexual health among African American youth.


Open Access