Examining the Role of Media Influence and Parental Involvement in the Sexual Socialization of African American Adolescent Girls



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There are disparate rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned teenage pregnancies among African American adolescent girls in comparison to other ethnic female peers (CDC, 2011). The literature has demonstrated that endorsement of permissive sexual attitudes promoted by the media have explanatory value in negative sexual health outcomes (Ward & Rivadeneyra, 1999; Ward & Friedman, 2006), while parents, namely mothers/female caregivers, are cited to be health promoting sexual socialization agents (DiIorio, Pluhar & Belcher, 2003). The literature is limited, however, in providing a comprehensive understanding of both media influence and parental involvement in the process of sexual socialization among African American adolescent girls. Thus, the purpose of this study was to bridge theoretical and methodological gaps in the current literature by addressing the aforementioned limitation. This was accomplished by specifically exploring Black-oriented television exposure rates, television and music video viewing motives, parent-adolescent communication about sexuality, process of sexual communication and the sexual attitudes of a heterogonous sample of African American adolescent girls between the age of 13 and 18. These variables were explored among 174 self-identified African American adolescent girls (M age = 15.61 years; SD= 1.50) sampled from 13 states within the United States. Participants were recruited through social media, non-profit organizations, churches, and public and charter schools throughout several states and administered the following measures: Viewing Motives Scale (Ward & Friedman, 2006), Sexual Communication Scale (Somers & Caniverz, 2003), Process of Sexual Communication Scale (Miller, Kotchick, Dorsey, Forehand, & Ham, 1998), and Brief Sexual Attitudes Scale (Hendrick, Hendrick, & Reich, 2006). In order to assess overall weekly television and Hip Hop music videos media consumption and Black-oriented television exposure, an adaption of Ward’s (2002) measure of Media Exposure Scale was utilized. Means and standard deviations and bivariate correlations among primary variables were examined. Additionally, frequencies were derived to provide descriptive information of the sample’s overall weekly television and Hip Hop music video consumption and favorite genre of television. Analysis revealed overall high rates of Black-oriented television exposure among adolescent participants with both entertainment and learning viewing motives. Additionally, little conversation about sexuality occurred among adolescents and their mother/female caregiver and conversation that did occur was restricted and narrow in scope. However, despite the high rates of Black-oriented television exposure and infrequent and limited conversations about sexuality, participants in this study did not endorse permissive sexual attitudes that are associated with risky sexual behaviors. Furthermore, neither media influence nor parental involvement was significant predictors of sexual attitudes among this sample. The implications of findings are discussed in terms of future research endeavors.



African Americans, Black, Adolescents, Girls, Sexuality Development, Sexual Socialization, Media, Mass communication, Parents, Media influence, Parental involvement, Adolescent Development