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Comparing Asian American and Caucasian American adolescents’ perceived parental expectancies and their sexual behaviors

While parental influences on adolescent health behaviors are well recognized, there is limited understanding of the relationship between adolescents’ perceptions of their parents’ expectations and their sexual behaviors. This mixed-methods study explored how White and Asian American adolescents perceive parental expectations via parent–child interactions, and how such expectations relate to adolescents’ self-reported sexual activities over time. Using gender-matched, in-depth interviews with 28 White and Asian American adolescents, ages 17 to 19, we explored adolescents’ perceptions of parental expectations about when, how, and under what conditions adolescents should engage in sexual activity. Stronger conservative parental sexual expectations and disapproving parental attitudes were closely related to later sexual debut and fewer sexual partners. Perceived closeness determined the degree to which adolescents respected and incorporated their parents’ beliefs, values, and sexual expectations. Future research should focus on developing family strategies to utilize the concept of perceived parental expectations.