Doctor of Philosophy
Faye Z. Belgrave, Ph.D.
WHAT’S THE 411 ON SEX IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH? A QUALITATIVE EXPLORATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN GIRLS’ EXPOSURE TO SEX COMMUNICATION IN THE CHURCH
By: Brittany M. Berry, Ph.D.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Virginia Commonwealth University, 2017.
Major Director: Dr. Faye Z. Belgrave, Professor, Psychology
The purpose of this dissertation research was to explore sex communication with African American girls in the African American Church. This research was guided by two objectives: (1) to explore African American adolescent girls’ exposure to sex communication in African American Churches, and (2) to explore African American girls’ perceptions and feelings about these messages. In this qualitative study, 20 African American teen girls and eight Church youth leaders were interviewed. Interviews were transcribed and coded to determine themes for youth and youth leaders. A total of 32 themes emerged across youth and youth leader interviews. Twelve girls reported some discussion of sex in Church and 8 girls reported no discussion. Overall, participant responses indicated that sex messages in Church are typically abstinence-focused and based on religious principles, with mention of using condoms in some cases. Findings indicated that girls vary in their comfort level with discussions about sex depending on multiple factors, including their own sexual activity. The impact of sex communication in Church on girls’ sexual behavior may vary; however, the relationships youth have with youth leaders and fellow parishioners may aid in holding girls accountable to the information they gain and religious values they cultivate in Church. Recommendations for Church leaders, youth leaders, and researchers are provided.
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