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Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Discussions: An Opportunity for Mothers to Talk With Their Daughters About Sexual Health

McRee, Annie-Laurie DrPH*; Gottlieb, Sami L. MD, MSPH; Reiter, Paul L. PhD‡,§; Dittus, Patricia J. PhD; Tucker Halpern, Carolyn PhD*; Brewer, Noel T. PhD¶,‖

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: May 2012 - Volume 39 - Issue 5 - p 394–401
doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318248aaa0
Original Study

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.

From the *Department of Maternal and Child Health, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC; Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA; Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, College of Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; §The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbus, OH; Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, NC; and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chapel Hill, NC

Supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 02577-10) with additional support for project staff from the American Cancer Society (MSRG-06-259-01-CPPB) and the Cancer Control Education Program at Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (R25 CA57726). Dr. McRee's time on the study was further supported by the Jessie Ball duPont Dissertation Completion Fellowship from the Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Although we do not believe we have any conflicts of interest, we share the following information in the interest of full disclosure. Authors have received research grants from Merck & Co., Inc. (N.T.B., P.L.R.) and GlaxoSmithKline (N.T.B.) and honoraria or consulting fees from these companies (N.T.B.). These funds were not used to support this research study.

Correspondence: Annie-Laurie McRee, DrPH, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, 325 Rosenau Hall, CB 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. E-mail:

Received for publication September 21, 2011, and accepted December 28, 2011.

© Copyright 2012 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association