Several studies have demonstrated a link between young people’s sexual behavior and levels of parental monitoring, parent-child communication, and parental discipline in Western countries. However, little is known about this association in African settings, especially among young people living in high poverty settings such as urban slums. The objective of the study was to assess the influence of parental factors (monitoring, communication, and discipline) on the transition to first sexual intercourse among unmarried adolescents living in urban slums in Kenya.
Longitudinal data collected from young people living in two slums in Nairobi, Kenya were used. The sample was restricted to unmarried adolescents aged 12–19 years at Wave 1 (weighted n = 1927). Parental factors at Wave 1 were used to predict adolescents’ transition to first sexual intercourse by Wave 2. Relevant covariates including the adolescents’ age, sex, residence, school enrollment, religiosity, delinquency, and peer models for risk behavior were controlled for. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to assess the associations of interest. All analyses were conducted using Stata version 13.
Approximately 6% of our sample transitioned to first sexual intercourse within the one-year study period; there was no sex difference in the transition rate. In the multivariate analyses, male adolescents who reported communication with their mothers were less likely to transition to first sexual intercourse compared to those who did not (p < 0.05). This association persisted even after controlling for relevant covariates (OR: ≤0.33; p < 0.05). However, parental monitoring, discipline, and communication with their fathers did not predict transition to first sexual intercourse for male adolescents. For female adolescents, parental monitoring, discipline, and communication with fathers predicted transition to first sexual intercourse; however, only communication with fathers remained statistically significant after controlling for relevant covariates (OR: 0.30; 95 % C.I.: 0.13–0.68).
This study provides evidence that cross-gender communication with parents is associated with a delay in the onset of sexual intercourse among slum-dwelling adolescents. Targeted adolescent sexual and reproductive health programmatic interventions that include parents may have significant impacts on delaying sexual debut, and possibly reducing sexual risk behaviors, among young people in high-risk settings such as slums.