Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Richard Rothenberg MD, MPH

Second Advisor

Laura F. Salazar, Ph.D


Proximal and Distal Indirect Influences on Adolescent

Sexual Activity and Post Risky Sexual Behaviors

INTRODUCTION: Prior literature has revealed a correlation between adolescent sexual debut and parenting behaviors. However, most existing studies has only focused on parental monitoring and control. This limitation, in addition to small, cross-sectional studies, has resulted in inconsistent and limited findings. These gaps are addressed in this present paper by investigating how family connectedness contributes to the age of sexual debut. It is hypothesized that adolescents who are 13 years of age and have a lack of family connectedness engage in high-risk behaviors sooner than their 13-year-old peers with greater family connectedness.

METHODS: Data were drawn from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. This paper focused on adolescents born in the year 1983 who had no sexual debut at baseline. Those selected were initially interviewed for baseline family connectedness and prospectively followed up to adulthood. Family connectedness was measured using five aspects: shared activities, parent-adolescent communication, parent admiration, parental support and the presence of family dinners. SAS 9.4 was used to perform survival analyses to examine the rate of teenage sexual debut by family connectedness.

RESULTS: Findings suggest that family connectedness, specifically weekly family dinners and parent-child communication were significant familial factors that delayed adolescent sexual behavior. The hazards ratio of having an adolescent sexual debut at any time for an individual who had family activity at least once a week was 0.91 (95CI: 0.74, 1.14), having weekly family dinner (HR 0.70; 95CI: 0.53, 0.93), communication with parents (HR 0.78; 95CI: 0.68, 0.91), perceived parental support (HR 1.04; 95CI:0.91, 1.02), think highly of parents (HR 1.08; 95CI 0.93, 1.25).

CONCLUSION: This study attempted to observe other factors outside of the parental monitor and control that could contribute to adolescent sexual activity. However, family connectedness was found to be a protective factor only among family weekly dinner and parent-child communitcation. Public health policy and interventions aimed at family connectedness alone will unlikely influence adolescent sexual behaviors. Therefore, other factors along with family connectedness should be further assessed to discover its true correlation on sexual debut.