Theses Doctoral

An Examination of Cognitive and Behavioral Referents of Acculturation and Their Impact on Predictors and Frequency of Sexual Communication Between Mexican-Origin Parents and Their Young Children

Dempsey, Jennifer

Effective familial communication regarding adolescent sexual health is recurrently identified as an important protective factor against high-risk sexual behavior, and is considered a valuable and necessary component of prevention. This is especially true for Latino adolescents who are disproportionately affected by unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, and for whom family-based interventions are the most efficacious. Unfortunately, sexual risk prevention research has generally excluded the role of culture in the design and implementation of sexual health interventions. This critical omission has generated interventions that conceivably lack cultural sensitivity, and run the risk of failure if their design contradicts the cultural beliefs and values of the targeted population. The purpose of this study was to investigate, among demographically comparable samples of Mexican-American parents, potential barriers to sexual health and safety communication that may be associated with cultural norms, beliefs and values. Its first objective was to examine the extent to which commonly held cultural values and beliefs influenced sexual health predictors and dialogue between Latino parents and their children. This study's second objective was to explore the mediating role of acculturation across each of the sexual communication outcomes. The third and final objective was to examine how these outcomes were distinctly affected by parent and child gender. Seventy-seven women and twenty men of Mexican-origin (total N = 97), parenting a child between 5 and 14 years of age and living in Boulder, Colorado, participated in the present study. They represented three generational levels of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans from varying socioeconomic statuses and representing both sexes. Key findings indicated that the endorsement of four traditional Latino cultural beliefs and values were moderately associated with factors that predict sexual health communication among Mexican-origin families. General family communication emerged as the heart of the model, denoting the most significantly influenced sexual communication predictive variable for both the mothers and fathers in the sample. The traditional Latino gender roles ascribed to men and women of Latino-origin (machismo and marianismo), were both negatively associated with effectual family communication, as was respeto, which embodies the expectation that children are respectful, obedient, and loyal to their family. Also, the findings suggest that parents who endorse fatalism hold more negative views of potential outcomes associated with familial discussions about sexual health and safety. The influence of Latino cultural beliefs and attitudes on factors that predict sexual communication was not mediated by acculturative status, as hypothesized in the present study, although the findings demonstrated that acculturation independently predicted sexual communication frequency between mothers and their adolescents. Factors that influence familial sexual communication are malleable and can be modified with the support of an effective intervention strategy. Understanding empirically how culture influences factors that predict adolescent sexual risk, as demonstrated in this research, will contribute to the development of strategies that are culturally relevant.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
MacKenzie, Michael J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 31, 2013