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Title: Parent-child communication about sex and sexuality : everyday practices, processes and meanings
Author: Lewis, Ruth H. M.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2009
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Strategies to improve young people’s sexual health which involve parents have been identified as a key area for development. There is, however, a lack of quantitative data concerning parents’ and children’s experiences of communicating with each other about sex and sexuality. This study examines the content, contexts and processes of parent-child communication about these issues. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of 61 parents and young people (aged 11-15) from 23 families in Scotland. Accounts were gathered from multiple members of the same family, enabling insights into the interaction of perspective within and across families. The thesis highlights parents’ and young people’s understandings of the challenges of communication, contextualising these within changing dynamics of parent-child relationships as children reach their early teens. The negotiated management of young people’s pubertal bodies is identified as a significant mechanism through which ‘appropriate’ sexuality is implicitly communicated between parents and children. Parents and children found it difficult to describe their interactions about sex and sexuality, suggesting that communication itself is a slippery concept. The stereotypical notion of parents and children ‘sitting down to talk about the birds and the bees’ appeared far removed from these families’ experiences of sexual communication. The thesis illuminates parents’ and children’s understandings of the nuances of communication which extends the narrow focus on direct talk in much other research. The active construction of familial contexts in which communication is either constrained or encouraged is also explored. The nature of boundaries of communication is examined, including perceptions of openness, privacy and disclosure, and the precarious status of sexual knowledge within families. Fathers’ perspectives on the barriers to communication are particularly elucidated, most notably uncertainty about the boundaries of ‘appropriate’ involvement in their children’s physical and sexual development.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available