A qualitative study of the sexual values held by Southern Baptist mothers and how they communicate these to their adolescent daughters
Baier, Margaret E. M.
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The rate of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are events that underline the need for change in the way we communicate with adolescents about sexuality in the hope of decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and STIs. To deepen the understanding of adolescent sexuality, it is important to examine the role of personal values and how attitudes are formed. While it has been shown that parental involvement is important in shaping adolescent attitudes toward sexuality, it is not clear how this is operationalized. Qualitative research methods enable the researcher to gain a more complete understanding of parents' and children's perceptions of their communication about sexuality. Because current research suggests that mothers and daughters are more likely to discuss issues of sexuality than are fathers and sons, the focus of this study was on the mother-daughter dyad. In this research, a grounded theory approach was utilized to interview Baptist mothers and their adolescent daughters in order to discover themes that appear in the discussions of sexuality, religiosity, and spirituality. The emergent themes included a strong religious and spiritual orientation. Sexuality themes included the belief that sexual intercourse should be "saved" for marriage, a common definition of "sex," communication about sexuality, lack of interest in sexually oriented behavior, and peer influence. Family themes included parental availability and monitoring, involvement in extra-curricular activities, the nature of the parent-child relationship, shame vs. self-respect and an orientation to the future. While a solid theoretical perspective was not derived from this study, this research provides a clearer description of the way in which Southern Baptist mothers and their daughters communicate about spirituality and sexuality, and reveals the effect this communication has on these adolescent girls. Implications for further research as well as the clinical implications of this study provide guidance for family therapists in this area.