Purpose: Parents and peers often create conflicting influences on adolescent sexual delay. This study examines the moderating effects of mothers' responsiveness during sex discussions on the negative relationship between sexually active peers and sexual delay among African-American and Hispanic adolescents.
Methods: Interview data from 530 African-American and Hispanic non-sexually active high school students were used to examine the effects of mother-adolescent sex discussions and peer norms on intentions to delay or initiate intercourse within the next year. Logistic regression was performed to test the moderating effects of adolescents' reports of mothers' responsiveness (openness, comfort, and understanding during sex discussions) on the relationship between perceived peer sexual activity and adolescent sexual delay.
Results: The relationship between mothers' responsiveness during sex discussions, peer sexual activity, and their effects on adolescent sexual delay is complex. Mother's responsiveness had a buffering effect on the negative effects of sexually active peers. Among adolescents who perceived a high percentage of their peers to be sexually active, those who reported that their mothers had above-average responsiveness were 1.6 times more likely to plan to delay intercourse than were adolescents who reported that their mothers had average responsiveness.
Conclusions: Parents and peers are mutually contingent influences in the dynamic social context of adolescents' lives. Although sexually active peers have a negative effect on adolescent sexual delay, responsive parent-adolescent sex discussions can buffer these effects. Intervention efforts can help parents develop the knowledge and communication skills they need to discuss sexual topics with their children effectively.