Mother-Child Relations and Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behavior

We hypothesize that children who are close to their parents are more likely to have attitudes and behavior that are consistent with their parents' values than children who are not close to their parents. Using data from a probability sample of 888 mother-child pairs of white women in the Detroit metropolitan area, we tested this hypothesis, using both mother's and child's report of whether he or she had engaged in premarital sexual intercourse. Unlike most previous work in this area, which has posited a direct association between the closeness of the mother-child relation and the child's attitudes and behavior, we found that the quality of the relation interacted with the mother's attitudes in its effects on the child's attitudes and behavior. Children with close relations with their mothers were more likely to hold attitudes and behave in a manner consistent with their mothers' own attitudes than children with more distant relations.