Multiple perspectives of parent-adolescent sexuality communication: Phenomenological description of a Rashoman effect

Jennifer Lynn Fitzharris, Ronald Jay Werner-Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Empirical evidence regularly demonstrates that parents influence adolescent sexuality, but we know much less about the processes associated with these influences (Werner-Wilson & Fitzharris, 2001). Communication seems to be one process that is associated with parent influence. The present article investigates the different perceptions of mothers, fathers, adolescent girls, and adolescent boys about sexuality communication. Research suggests that parents and adolescents differ in their perception of the amount of communication that occurs between parents and adolescents about sexuality. Theoretically, the difference in perception about sexuality communication can be understood as representing a Rashoman effect, a social-psychological construct, which suggests that interpretation of events is an inherently subjective experience. We analyzed focus-group data for the presence of a Rashoman effect and discuss implications for sexuality education and future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-288
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Family Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This is supported by a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Children Now (1999), who surveyed parents and adolescents about sex. Results suggested that 72% of children ages 10–15 were more likely to go to their parents to discuss pressures to have sex if they had previously discussed sex with their parents. However, only 57% of children who reported they had not discussed sex with their parents reported they would talk to their parents about the same issue. Clearly, these results should encourage parents to discuss sexuality more frequently and in a manner that solicits questions from the adolescent as opposed to scaring the child into abstaining from sex, which may suppress any desire the adolescent has to talk to their parents about sex and sexuality.

Funding Information:
∗This research was supported, in part, by a grant from the Western Michigan University Faculty Research and Creative Activities Support Fund, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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