Skip to main content

Not Under My Roof

Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex

Winner of the Healthy Teen Network’s Carol Mendez Cassell Award for Excellence in Sexuality Education and the American Sociological Association’s Children and Youth Section’s 2012 Distinguished Scholarly Research Award

For American parents, teenage sex is something to be feared and forbidden: most would never consider allowing their children to have sex at home, and sex is a frequent source of family conflict. In the Netherlands, where teenage pregnancies are far less frequent than in the United States, parents aim above all for family cohesiveness, often permitting young couples to sleep together and providing them with contraceptives. Drawing on extensive interviews with parents and teens, Not Under My Roof offers an unprecedented, intimate account of the different ways that girls and boys in both countries negotiate love, lust, and growing up.

Tracing the roots of the parents’ divergent attitudes, Amy T. Schalet reveals how they grow out of their respective conceptions of the self, relationships, gender, autonomy, and authority. She provides a probing analysis of the way family culture shapes not just sex but also alcohol consumption and parent-teen relationships. Avoiding caricatures of permissive Europeans and puritanical Americans, Schalet shows that the Dutch require self-control from teens and parents, while Americans guide their children toward autonomous adulthood at the expense of the family bond.

312 pages | 9 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Psychology: Social Psychology

Social Work

Sociology: Sociology--Marriage and Family


“Amy Schalet’s book compares the sexual attitudes of American and Dutch parents and her findings are nothing short of staggering: Whereas most American parents panic about the idea of allowing their kids to have sex with other kids under their roof, for many Dutch parents, it’s not only fine — it’s responsible parenting. . . . Schalet’s extensively researched, fascinating work . . . is a startling wake-up call about America’s largely misguided attitudes toward sex and growing up.”


"Her book starts in the adolescent bedroom, and ends up explaining why the US is so conservative on social issues and the Netherlands so liberal."—Financial Times

Financial Times

“This is a thorough and intriguing look at how attitudes about sexuality have developed in each country since the 1970s. The author presents a brief but convincing discussion of how the economic and political systems in Holland and the US evolved to create the cultural frameworks that led Dutch parents to normalize teenage sexuality and US parents to dramatize it. Schalet has juxtaposed US and Dutch cultural histories, family values, and societal attitudes about such seemingly diverse issues as sexuality, immigration, and the intersection of individual autonomy and state sovereignty to produce a fascinating look into the origins and consequences of two diametrically opposed paradigms of adolescent sexuality. . . . Highly recommended.”


"Not Under My Roof is a fascinating book. I have told all of my friends who have teenagers to read it. I also recommend it for classroom use. College students will immediately grasp how society shapes their experiences of sex, drugs, and alcohol."

American Journal of Sociology

“[An] engaging and informative monograph. . .  .Lucid and highly attuned to the complexities of human experience, Not Under My Roof should find a welcome place in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses on sexuality, gender, and culture and should be required reading for scholars in those areas, as well as for makers of public policy."

Gender and Society

“The analyses and insights are mightily impressive. . . . Schalet’s own background has enabled her to be both an insider and an outsider in her observations in both countries, and this advantage has clearly been maximised. A very important work, and very strongly recommended.”

Sex Education

“In Not Under My Roof, Amy Schalet mines the radically different American and Dutch understandings of adolescent sexuality—their different takes on lust, love, gender, hormones, control, and selfhood—and comes away with scholarly gold. Carefully researched, wicked smart, and filled with the voices and stories of parents and teenagers, Schalet’s is one of the best books on sexuality and culture in years.”

Joshua Gamson, University of San Francisco

“Schalet’s insightful analyses—grounded in history, sociology, and adolescent development—provide a roadmap for normalizing sexuality and guiding social policy. Taking adolescent sexuality out of the darkness of the back seat and into the light under the family roof has the power to transform adolescent and adult sexuality and family relations.”

John Santelli, MD, Columbia University

“Combining intimate personal stories with brilliant sociological insight, Schalet challenges our assumptions about teenage sex and the inevitability of conflict between teenagers and parents. American adolescents rebel, and their parents impose harsh discipline because they prize individual autonomy and fear the social disorder it implies. Dutch parents expect their children to be reasonable because they see self-regulation as a natural attribute of a cohesive society. This far-reaching and enthralling cultural analysis puts flesh on the bones of theories of modern individualism, and, perhaps more importantly, it offers American parents a new, hopeful—if at times unsettling—sense of how we might better love, respect, and care for our children.”

Ann Swidler, University of California, Berkeley

“Not Under My Roof is a thought-provoking sociological treatise rooted in the lives and words of real people. The material is sophisticated, but the writing is clear and direct, which makes it a pleasure to read.  Dr. Schalet’s meticulous research gleans the perspectives of teens and their parents in both the U.S. and Holland, offering poignant insight into the struggles over emerging sexuality that occur in the transition from adolescence to adulthood.  Hers is a lucid window into another culture that may help us to more clearly see ourselves.”

Jillian Henderson, University of California, San Francisco

“With grace and style, Amy Schalet presents a forceful and convincing argument about the divergent cultural approaches to sexuality, socialization of adolescents, and conceptions of citizenship in the United States and the Netherlands, probing deep-seated value differences that play out in the management of sex. Nuanced, well documented, and remarkably persuasive, Not Under My Roof is an exemplary study.”

Frank Furstenberg, University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents


One / Raging Hormones, Regulated Love

Two / Dutch Parents and the Sleepover

Three / American Parents and the Drama of Adolescent Sexuality

Four / Adversarial and Interdependent Individualism

Five / “I Didn’t Even Want Them to Know”: Connection through Control

Six / “At Least They Know Where I Am”: Control through Connection

Seven / Romantic Rebels, Regular Lovers

Eight / Sexuality, Self-Formation, and the State

Conclusion / Beyond the Drama

Methodological Appendix





Healthy Teen Network: Carrol Castell Mendez Prize

ASA Section on Children and Youth: Outstanding Scholarly Contribution Award

ASA Family Section: William J. Goode Distinguished Book Award

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press