Purpose: Mother-daughter communication about sex is associated with healthier behavior during adolescence. We sought to characterize mothers' communication with their daughters about human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and the potential for these discussions to provide an opportunity for talking about sexual health.
Methods: During December 2009, we conducted an online survey with a nationally representative sample of US mothers of girls aged 11 to 14 years (n = 900; response rate = 66%). We used 3 complimentary approaches to assess HPV vaccine as an opportunity for mother-daughter communication about sex. Estimates are weighted.
Results: Sixty-five percent of mothers reported talking with their daughters about HPV vaccine, of whom 41% said that doing so led to a conversation about sex. Mothers who had talked with their daughters about HPV vaccine were more likely than those who had not to have also talked with their daughters about sex (92% vs. 74%, OR = 3.25, CI = 1.57–6.68, P < 0.05), in multivariate analyses. Among mothers who talked about sex when they talked about HPV vaccine, many felt that HPV vaccine provided a good reason to do so (64%) or that it made it easier to start a conversation (33%).
Conclusions: HPV vaccine discussions provide a cue to mother-daughter communication about sex that is as important as some more widely recognized cues. Discussions about HPV vaccine are an acceptable opportunity for mothers to talk with their daughters at an age when communication about sex is most influential. It may be possible for parents to capitalize on HPV vaccine discussions already happening in many families to promote sexual health.