Social cognitions associated with pubertal development in a sample of urban, low-income, African-American and Latina girls and mothers

Lucia F. O’Sullivan, Heino F L Meyer-Balhburg, Beverly X. Watkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: To assess girls' acquisition of new sex-related social cognitions at puberty and the social meanings they attribute to changes in their primary social relationships. Methods: As part of a larger study assessing sociosexual cognitions of urban girls, 57 African-American and Latina mothers and 57 girls (aged 10-13 years) participated in one of 16 focus groups. Thematic analyses were conducted on transcripts of the mothers' and daughters' focus group sessions. Results: Analyses revealed four major themes related to pubertal development: (1) physical maturation provides new social status of maturity; (2) puberty is associated with changes in sexual expectations and roles; (3) girls develop social meanings to feelings of sexual arousal; and (4) puberty prompts changes in mother-daughter relationship control. Representative quotations are used to illustrate each of these themes. Conclusions: Our analyses provide insight into the ways in which late childhood and early adolescent urban girls interpret sexuality and sexual relations, perceive changes in their social relationships, and develop expectations regarding their roles in sexual and romantic relationships. (C) Society for Adolescent Medicine, 2000.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-235
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2000



  • Adolescents
  • At-risk populations
  • Mother-daughter interactions
  • Puberty
  • Sexual development
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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