Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Edwards, Lisa M.

Second Advisor

Fox, Robert A.

Third Advisor

Melchert, Timothy


Researchers' examination of Latino adolescents' cultural values and sexual activity has yielded questions regarding the cultural- and gender-specific attitudes and practices in this area (Deardorff, Tschann, & Flores, 2008). Cultural values include family-related variables such as different aspects of familism, parent-adolescent communication, and parental monitoring, which have been found to decrease adolescents' engagement in other negative activities such as aggressive behavior, (Dishion & McMahon, 1998), substance use (Estrada, Rabow, & Watts, 1982), and juvenile delinquency (Clark & Shields, 1997). Research investigating these risk behaviors has often implicated Latino adolescents' level of assimilation to White, mainstream society as a potential risk factor for higher engagement in negative behaviors, emphasizing the importance of better understanding the cultural context in which Latino youth live and how it may impact their risky behavior.

This dissertation study, therefore, examined the relationship between five Latino family variables (i.e., attitudinal familism, behavioral familism, structural familism, parent-adolescent communication, and parental monitoring), assimilation to White culture, and the sexual activity beliefs and behaviors of Latino adolescents. A mixed-methods project explored and tested the relationships between these variables. Four gender-specific focus groups were conducted with adolescents; data were analyzed using Grounded Theory methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Also, 410 Latino youth completed quantitative surveys about their family-related behaviors, attitudes, and sexual activity. Relationships among these variables were tested using correlations and regressions.

Primary findings from the qualitative study indicated that gender differences in Latino families' communication about sex and monitoring behaviors impacts Latina girls' and Latino boys' sexual activity beliefs. Differences observed with regard to gender were such that Latina girls' felt sexual activity was not appropriate for teenagers, whereas the boys felt that it was acceptable for teenagers to engage in sexual activity as long as they used a contraceptive method. Quantitative results indicated parental monitoring and some aspects of familism were found to be related to a decreased likelihood of engaging in sexual activity for the girls and boys. High assimilation to White, mainstream culture was not found to impact sexual activity beliefs or behaviors in the current study.