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Emerging adulthood is a time of sexual and romantic relationship development as well as change in the parent-child relationship. This study provides a longitudinal analysis of 30 young adults’ (17 women, 13 men) sexual experiences, attitudes about sexuality and dating, and reported conversations with parents about sexuality and dating from the first and fourth years of college. Self-report questionnaires revealed increases in general closeness with parents, increases in sexual and dating experiences, and both more sexually permissive as well as more gender stereotyped attitudes. Qualitative analyses of individual interviews indicated a movement from unilateral and restrictive, sex-based topics to more reciprocal and relationship-focused conversations over time. Gender analyses revealed that young women reported more restrictive sex messages and young men more positive-sex messages. Participants also described increased openness and comfort in talking about sexual topics with both mothers and fathers from the first to fourth year of college. Overall, the results suggest that prior findings of increased mutuality with parents during the college years extend to the traditionally taboo topic of sexuality.

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This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record. This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Developmental Psychology, published by American Psychological Association. Copyright restrictions may apply. DOI: 10.1037/a0016931