Methods: Participants were 120 parent-son dyads recruited as part of a larger prevention program study. The dyads were recruited from middle schools within the Northeastern region of the U.S. Dyads completed an adapted version of the Miller Sexual Communication Scale (Miller et al., 1998). Dyads were concordant if both parent and teen endorsed that a conversation on a given topic occurred. Dyads were discordant if either the parent or teen endorsed that a conversation on a given topic occurred whereas the other did not. Dyads also could agree that a conversation on a topic did not occur.
Results: Dyad concordance, discordance, and denial of parent-child conversations for the following topics were observed: when it is appropriate to start having sex (26.9%, 44.5%, 28.6%, respectively), how to handle problems in relationships (39.5%, 37.8%, 22.7%, respectively), how to manage emotions (61.3%, 31.9%, 6.7%, respectively), how to communicate via technology (56.4%, 40.2%, 3.4%, respectively), values on dating and sex (15.1%, 47.9%, 37%, respectively), how to choose a dating partner (5%, 28.6%, 66.4%, respectively), and sexual health knowledge (35.3%, 31.1%, 33.6%, respectively). Among dyads with discordant report, parents tended to report that the conversation occurred, whereas the teen reported it did not. The percentage of dyads for whom the parent reported the conversation occurred while the teen did not ranged from 55.5% to 84.2% across all conversation topics.
Discussion: Our findings suggest that it is important to gather both parent and teen perspectives when inquiring about parent-child communication. Furthermore, frequent discordance in report of communication suggests that parents can benefit from training in positive communication skills to facilitate more explicit and clear communication with their teen.