Correlates and consequences of parent-teen incongruence in reports of teens' sexual experience

J Sex Res. 2010 Jul;47(4):314-29. doi: 10.1080/00224490902954315.


Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, factors associated with incongruence between parents' and adolescents' reports of teens' sexual experience were investigated, and the consequences of inaccurate parental knowledge for adolescents' subsequent sexual behaviors were explored. Most parents of virgins accurately reported teens' lack of experience, but most parents of teens who had had sex provided inaccurate reports. Binary logistic regression analyses showed that many adolescent-, parent-, and family-level factors predicted the accuracy of parents' reports. Parents' accurate knowledge of their teens' sexual experience was not found to be consistently beneficial for teens' subsequent sexual outcomes. Rather, parents' expectations about teens' sexual experience created a self-fulfilling prophecy, with teens' subsequent sexual outcomes conforming to parents' expectations. These findings suggest that research on parent-teen communication about sex needs to consider the expectations being expressed, as well as the information being exchanged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Knowledge
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior* / statistics & numerical data
  • Truth Disclosure
  • United States