Mixed Messages: Norms and Social Control Around Teen Sex and Pregnancy

ISBN : 9780190633271

Stefanie Mollborn
296 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Mar 2017
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Sex is bad. Unprotected sex is a problem. Having a baby would be a disaster. Abortion is a sin. Teenagers in the United States hear conflicting messages about sex from everyone around them. How do teens understand these messages? In Mixed Messages, Stefanie Mollborn examines how social norms and social control work through in-depth interviews with college students and teen mothers and fathers, revealing the tough conversations teeangers just can't have with adults. Delving into teenagers' complicated social worlds Mollborn argues that by creating informal social sanctions like gossip and exclusion and formal communication such as sex education, families, peers, schools, and communities strategize to gain control over teens' behaviors. However, while teens strategize to keep control, they resist the constraints of the norms, revealing the variety of outcomes that occur beyond compliance or deviance. By proving that the norms existing today around teen sex are ineffective, failing to regulate sexual behavior, and instead punishing teens that violate them, Mollborn calls for a more thoughtful and consistent dialogue between teens and adults, emphasizing messages that will lead to more positive health outcomes.


Chapter 1: Norms and Social Control of Teen Sexuality
Chapter 2: Theorizing About Norms and Social Control
Chapter 3: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": Sexuality Norms and Social Control at Home
Chapter 4: "What Are People Going to Think?": The Influence of Close Friends and Peers
Chapter 5: "Scare It into Us": School Norms and Social Control
Chapter 6: "Carrying a Stigma": Communities and Teen Sexuality
Chapter 7: "Say One Thing and Do Another": Teens React to Norms and Social Control
Chapter 8: Conclusion
Appendix: Research Methods

About the author: 

Stefanie Mollborn is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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