Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



Emerging adulthood is a distinct and unique period in which individuals explore new roles and responsibilities, including the challenges of decision-making (Arnett, 2015). Little to no research has investigated the effects of family communication on the perceived ability to discuss personal decisions, specifically vaccine decisions, with parents during emerging adulthood. This dissertation provides in-depth analyses of parent-emerging adult communication about vaccine decisions, specifically COVID-19 and HPV vaccines. Part One of this study investigated the associations between family communication patterns (FCP), parental confirmation behaviors (PCB), and the perceived ability to discuss vaccine decisions with parents during emerging adulthood (PAD) across two groups: (1) COVID-19 and (2) HPV. Participants (N = 589) across the two groups completed an online survey questionnaire in which identical prompts addressed either a COVID-19 or HPV context. Results of a structural equation model revealed that the effects of both conversation orientation and conformity orientation on PAD varied across the two groups. Notably, the relationship between conformity orientation and PAD was not significant in either group. These results suggest that emerging adults are more likely to consider family conversation values, rather than conformity orientation, when evaluating their ability to discuss vaccine decisions with patterns. Part Two of this study explored how different types of emerging adults communicate with their parents about vaccine decisions by analyzing responses to an open-ended prompt. Part Two utilized latent profile analysis (LPA) and thematic analysis to capture the nuances of communicating with parents about health decisions during emerging adulthood. The LPA yielded four emerging adult types (i.e., connected, balanced, influenced, and cooperative) and the thematic analysis provided insight to how the different types of emerging adults involve their ix parents in their vaccine decisions by revealing five recurring themes (confrontation, autonomy, shared decision-making, reliance on parents, and parental control). The findings for both parts of this study suggest that emerging adults’ perceived ability to communicate with parents about vaccine decisions is contingent on an array of interpersonal factors including conversation orientation. These factors include, but are not limited to, autonomy goals and parent-child communication patterns.



Committee Chair

Pecchioni, Loretta L.



Available for download on Monday, May 06, 2030