Parent communication about sexual and relationship violence: Promoting healthy relationships or reinforcing gender stereotypes?

Dana A. Weiser, Miriam Lieway, Randal D. Brown, M. Rosie Shrout, Kristan N. Russell, Daniel J. Weigel, William P. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Drawing on a feminist framework and social cognitive theory, we examine parental communications about sexual and relationship violence and gendered patterns of communication. Background: Limited research has examined parental communication about sexual and relationship violence, a concern given that parental communication influences children's sexual beliefs in other domains. Method: Participants were 438 university students who responded to three prompts about parental communication regarding sexual and relationship violence (n = 368 who provided responses). A content analysis was performed to categorize responses. Participants also responded to four subscales about parental communication. Results: Most participants reported parent communication about consent, sexual assault, and unhealthy relationships. Women and men reported receiving similar, accurate definitions of consent. Women received messages about monitoring behaviors, help-seeking, and how to give consent as well as messages that encouraged bodily autonomy, emphasized that sexual assault is not the victim's fault, and deemed physical and emotional abuse unacceptable. Men received messages that sexual assault is wrong, that consent is important, and about how to obtain consent. Conclusions: Collectively, these findings highlight that although parents are communicating important messages about consent, many are also reinforcing gendered sexual scripts. Implications: Implications for education about parental communication and future directions for research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Relations
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • consent
  • feminism
  • parent communication
  • rape
  • sexual assault


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