• Article

Impact of a parent-child sexual communication campaign: results from a controlled efficacy trial of parents

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Prior research supports the notion that parents have the ability to influence their children's decisions regarding sexual behavior. Yet parent-based approaches to curbing teen pregnancy and STDs have been relatively unexplored. The Parents Speak Up National Campaign (PSUNC) is a multimedia campaign that attempts to fill this void by targeting parents of teens to encourage parent-child communication about waiting to have sex. The campaign follows a theoretical framework that identifies cognitions that are targeted in campaign messages and theorized to influence parent-child communication. While a previous experimental study showed PSUNC messages to be effective in increasing parent-child communication, it did not address how these effects manifest through the PSUNC theoretical framework. The current study examines the PSUNC theoretical framework by 1) estimating the impact of PSUNC on specific cognitions identified in the theoretical framework and 2) examining whether those cognitions are indeed associated with parent-child communication METHODS: Our study consists of a randomized efficacy trial of PSUNC messages under controlled conditions. A sample of 1,969 parents was randomly assigned to treatment (PSUNC exposure) and control (no exposure) conditions. Parents were surveyed at baseline, 4 weeks, 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months post-baseline. Linear regression procedures were used in our analyses. Outcome variables included self-efficacy to communicate with child, long-term outcome expectations that communication would be successful, and norms on appropriate age for sexual initiation. We first estimated multivariable models to test whether these cognitive variables predict parent-child communication longitudinally. Longitudinal change in each cognitive variable was then estimated as a function of treatment condition, controlling for baseline individual characteristics. RESULTS: Norms related to appropriate age for sexual initiation and outcome expectations that communication would be successful were predictive of parent-child communication among both mothers and fathers. Treatment condition mothers exhibited larger changes than control mothers in both of these cognitive variables. Fathers exhibited no exposure effects. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that within a controlled setting, the 'wait until older norm' and long-term outcome expectations were appropriate cognitions to target and the PSUNC media materials were successful in impacting them, particularly among mothers. This study highlights the importance of theoretical frameworks for parent-focused campaigns that identify appropriate behavioral precursors that are both predictive of a campaign's distal behavioral outcome and sensitive to campaign messages


Davis, K., Blitstein, J., Evans, WD., & Kamyab, K. (2010). Impact of a parent-child sexual communication campaign: results from a controlled efficacy trial of parents. Reproductive Health, 7, 17.