Conceptualizing Healthy Sexual Relationships: The Role of Parent-Teen Relationships and Peer Relationships in Teens’ Choice of First Sexual Partners

Jennifer Manlove, Child Trends
Elizabeth Terry-Humen, Child Trends
Erum N. Ikramullah, Child Trends

The initiation of heterosexual romantic relationships represents a key developmental task of adolescence, and research suggests that two aspects of healthy sexual relationships are having a steady, romantic relationship and having a similar-age partner. This paper uses longitudinal data from Rounds 1–8 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort, to assess the role of positive family and peer environments in the development of healthy sexual relationships among males and females. Using person-round files, we will explore the role of parenting (including parent-teen relationships, parental monitoring and awareness, and family routines), family structure and stability, and peer environments (including the presence of positive peers or negative peers) in delaying sexual initiation, and – among sexually experienced teens – with more positive relationship characteristics, including having a first sexual relationship that is romantic (vs. casual) and with a similar-aged (vs. older or younger) partner.

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Presented in Session 108: Healthy Sexual Development in Adolescence