Communication about sex and HPV among Puerto Rican mothers and daughters

Vivian Colón-López, Natalie Fernández-Espada, Camille Vélez, Velda J. Gonzalez, Elba C. Diaz-Toro, William A. Calo, Lara S. Savas, Angela Pattatucci, María E. Fernández

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Although opportunities to vaccinate against human papillomavirus (HPV) are available, vaccination rates in Puerto Rico remain low. Communication between parents and adolescents about sexual topics may influence decisions about HPV vaccination uptake, particularly among young women; yet, few studies have addressed this issue. This qualitative study explored Puerto Rican mothers’ and daughters’ communication on sex-related topics, and HPV, including the HPV vaccine. Design: Thirty participants, including 9 mothers and 21 daughters, participated in seven focus groups. Participants were divided into groups of mothers and daughters, and further stratified by vaccination status. Transcripts were analyzed using a modified grounded theory approach to identify emergent themes. Results: Focus group data revealed four main themes: (1) limited parent–daughter communication about sex-related topics; (2) daughters’ discomfort discussing sex-related topics with their parents; (3) parental focus on abstinence; and, (4) limited parent–daughter communication about HPV and the HPV vaccine. Conclusion: Although daughters in this study struggled with feelings of embarrassment, invasion of privacy, encouragement of abstinence, and the fear of parents’ reaction to them being sexually active prior to marriage, they also recognized the need to increase the parent–daughter communication about sex-related topics including HPV and the HPV vaccine. Educational efforts should target both daughters and parents to increase communication skills and self-efficacy and to enable them to discuss sexual health in open and nonjudgmental conversations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-360
Number of pages13
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 4 2017


  • HPV vaccine
  • Human papilloma virus
  • Puerto Rico
  • adolescents
  • communication
  • qualitative research
  • sexual topics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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