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Sheri Bastien et al., Reproductive Health: A review of studies of parent-child communication about sexuality and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

A review of studies of parent-child communication about sexuality and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
by Sheri Bastien, Lusajo Kajula and Wilson Muhezi, Repro-ductive Health 2011, 8:25

Parent-child sexuality communication has been identified as a protective factor for adolescent sexual and reproductive health, including HIV infection. The available literature on this topic in sub-Saharan Africa is increasing; however a systematic review of studies has not been conducted.

This article reviews the literature in the area of parental or caregiver and child communication about sexuality and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. A review of peer reviewed literature published between 1980 and April 2011 was conducted.


Communication process studies investigating the frequency, content, style, tone of discussions, preferences, as well as associations with and barriers to sexuality communication are reviewed. In addition, studies which examine behavioral associations with parent-child sexuality communication, and intervention studies to improve parent-child sexuality communication are examined.

The findings from process studies suggest wide variation in terms of frequency of discussions, with a range of socio-demographic and other factors associated with sexuality communication. Overall, findings demonstrate that discussions tend to be authoritarian and uni-directional, characterized by vague warnings rather than direct, open discussion.

Moreover, parents and young people report a number of barriers to open dialogue, including lack of knowledge and skills, as well as cultural norms and taboos. Findings are less clear when it comes to associations between parental communication and adolescent sexual activity and contraception use.

However, nascent indications from intervention research suggest positive findings with increases in frequency and comfort of discussions, among other outcomes. Gaps in the research are identified and discussed with implications for future studies.

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