Direct and Nondirect Communication of Maternal Beliefs to Adolescents: Adolescent Motivations for Premarital Sexual Activity1


  • 1

    This research was supported by NICHD Grant R01HD2843401.

2 Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Patricia J. Dittus or James Jaccard, Department of Psychology, SS112, University at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222. e-mail: or


Communication between mothers and adolescents about premarital sexual intercourse was studied in the context of a model of maternal influence on the formation of adolescent beliefs about sexual behavior. Two different forms of maternal influence were explored: (a) direct communication, and (b) indirect transmission of maternal orientations. Respondents were 751 inner-city, African American adolescents (ages 14 to 17) and their mothers. Results indicated that adolescent motivations were related to their sexual behavior, and that maternal beliefs about sex were predictive of those motivations, independent of reports of the amount of communication that had taken place. These data are consistent with a model that underscores multiple mechanisms by which parents influence adolescent sexual behavior over and above direct communication.