Parental influences on late adolescents' autonomous motivation and sexual risk knowledge and behavior
Adolescent risky sexual behavior is associated with unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDS. During their time of transition to adulthood, late adolescents make decisions about their sexual health that may or may not be motivated by parental (mother and father) sexual risk communication and autonomy support. While the adolescent may be physically independent or semi-independent from his/her parents, parents continue to influence their adolescents through past and present endorsement of certain behaviors. This research examined how parent-sexual risk communication and parental autonomy support may individually and collectively influence the late adolescent's sexual risk behavior and sexual risk knowledge through the adolescent's autonomous motivation. Self-determination theory, a theory of motivation, provided the basis for the research, hypotheses, and conceptual model. A quantitative, cross-sectional, correlational-descriptive, path analysis design was used. A convenience sample ( N = 249) of 19- and 20-year-old males and females was recruited from an urban senior college. Self-report questionnaires were used to assess demographic characteristics and study variables. Hypothesized pathways were tested for the proposed relationships among the participants' perception of parent-adolescent sexual risk communication and parents' support of autonomy, adolescents' sexual risk knowledge, and adolescents' sexual risk behavior, as well as the possible mediation by adolescents' autonomous motivation. The final trimmed model (GFI = .99) indicated that parental influences of sexual risk communication and autonomy support, directly and indirectly, predicted adolescents' autonomous motivation and sexual risk behavior (standardized coefficient = -.030). No direct or indirect relationship was found between a parental influence and adolescents' sexual risk knowledge. Obviously more research is needed; however, these new findings indicate mothers and fathers contribute uniquely to late adolescent college students' autonomous motivation to avoid sexual risk behaviors. Clinicians should encourage parents to be autonomy supportive when communicating sexual risk health messages to their adolescents.