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Adolescent Sexuality: Disentangling the Effects of Family Structure and Family Context



Growing up in single-parent, step-, cohabiting, or lesbian families has been suggested to have negative effects on adolescent sexual behavior. However, our analysis reveals that, with the exception of girls in single-parent families, family structure does not significantly influence adolescents' sexual initiation. Rather, the family context—more specifically the mother-child relationship, their level of interaction, and the mother's attitudes toward and discussion of sex—is associated with adolescent sexual debut. When looking at sexually active teenagers, neither family structure nor family context have an impact on the sexual partnerships of boys, and they explain little in terms of girl's sexual partnering.