Date of Award

Summer 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Desideria Hacker

Committee Member

Darlene Colson

Committee Member

Kristin Heron

Committee Member

Robin Lewis

Committee Member

James Paulson


The most recent research on risky sexual behaviors is primarily based on adolescent, predominately White, or multiple race (e.g., African American and White) samples. There is a paucity of literature focused exclusively on African Americans, particularly African American emerging adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Given the increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for college aged African Americans, it is important to understand factors that may decrease engaging in risky sexual behaviors that are specific to this group. The current study examined the roles of parental warmth and communication about sex as protective factors. Participants (n = 301) completed a series of questionnaires assessing parental warmth, parental communication about sex, permissive peer sex messages, permissive social media sex messages, and sexual risk behaviors. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed more parental communication about sex (for mothers and fathers) and more maternal warmth during adolescence were associated with less risky sexual behavior for African American college students. In terms of peer influence, more permissive peer sex messages were associated with greater risky sexual behavior, whereas permissive social media sex messages were not. These results highlight the importance of parental and peer influences on the sexual behavior of African American college students. Based on the findings parents and peers should be included in adolescent and emerging adult risk reduction intervention efforts.