Consequence-based communication about adolescent romantic experience between parents and adolescents: A qualitative study underpinned by social constructionism

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Abstract

Chinese adolescents are increasingly engaging in romantic experiences and high-risk sexual behaviors within a rapidly-changing cultural and socio-economic context. Parental communication about sexuality has been recognized as protective for adolescents to make informed decisions about sexual practice. In this study, we explored what was discussed about adolescent romantic experience between parents and adolescents in China. Twenty-seven parents and 38 adolescents from a northern–eastern city of China were interviewed. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analyzed using a social constructionism framework. Four themes were identified: (i) detriments of romantic experience to education and future prospect; (ii) health and sociocultural risks of romantic and sexual engagement; (iii) ways of handling romantic experience; and (iv) marriage and family building. The messages were mainly prohibitive and consequence oriented in nature, and lacked specific romantic and sexual information. These messages reflected sociocultural beliefs in education, sexuality, marriage, and family in China, but did not meet the needs of current adolescents. External support from health professionals, such as nurses, is important for parents and adolescents to improve their sexual knowledge and communication skills.

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