Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science


Developmental Science


Human Development and Family Science

First Advisor

Karen McCurdy


Risky sexual behavior in adolescence can lead to short-term and long-term consequences such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s), and increased number of sexual partners (Simons et al., 2015). In this paper, risky sexual behavior is being defined has having an early sexual debut; having sex by or at age 15. Having sex before or at age 15 poses threats to adolescent’s well-being because of the increased likelihood of previously stated consequences (Magnusson, 2019). The relationship between inter-parental relationship quality, paternal closeness, and some adolescent outcomes such as drug use, alcohol use, and mental health has been previously observed (Harold et al., 2018; McLaughlin & Kaplan, 2007). Less is known about the relationship between positive inter-parental relationship quality factors, paternal closeness, and risky sexual behavior.

The current study examines the potential significance of positive inter-parental relationship qualities such as trust, communication, and perception of relationship as well as how close the child feels to their dad at age 9 on risky sexual behavior at age 15. The current study used the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFWS) for data analyses. This study followed children born between 1998 and 2000; baseline data, and child years 9 and 15 were used in this study. Originally, this study was conducted to measure the parenting qualities and childhood outcomes of low income, un-married mothers. Births to unmarried mothers were oversampled at a ratio of 3:1.

To examine inter-parental relationship quality, mean scores of inter-parental relationship quality scales were compared by whether or not the adolescent had sex. An initial t-test revealed that mother’s perception of relationship was significantly associated with risky sexual behaviors (p =.003), as was father’s perception of relationship (p <.001). A second t-test revealed that there was no significant relationship between paternal closeness and risky sexual behaviors (p = .241). To explore the associations between inter-parental relationships, paternal closeness, and risky sexual behavior, a logistical regression was conducted with demographic covariates entered to adjust for predictors of risky sexual behavior. Regression results revealed no significant associations of inter-parental relationship quality or paternal closeness and risky sex. It was found that race and education as demographic variables were better predictors of risky sexual behavior in adolescents than any of the independent variables.



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