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Parents’ and Sons’ Beliefs in Sexual Disinhibition After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination

Mayer, Melissa K. BA*; Reiter, Paul L. PhD†‡; Zucker, Rachel A. BA*; Brewer, Noel T. PhD

doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000021
Original Study

Background The concern that adolescent girls who receive human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may be more likely to have sex (ie, sexual disinhibition) has been commonplace in media coverage, but this belief is not held by many parents of adolescent girls. Because no studies have addressed this topic for adolescent boys, we examined parents’ and their adolescent sons’ beliefs in sexual disinhibition occurring after boys receive HPV vaccine.

Methods A national sample of parents of adolescent boys (n = 547) and their sons (aged 15–17 years; n = 176) completed online surveys in fall 2010. We used multi-item scales to measure parents’ and sons’ beliefs in sexual disinhibition after HPV vaccination. We used multivariate linear regression to identify correlates of beliefs in sexual disinhibition.

Results Less than a quarter of parents or sons agreed with statements suggesting that HPV vaccination leads to sexual disinhibition among adolescent boys (range, 20%–24%). Parents who had more liberal political affiliations (β = −0.11), had a daughter who had received HPV vaccine (β = −0.12), or had no daughter (β = −0.10) reported weaker beliefs in sexual disinhibition. Parents who reported higher anticipated regret if their sons got HPV vaccine and fainted (β = 0.18) indicated stronger beliefs in sexual disinhibition. Sons who perceived higher peer acceptance of HPV vaccination (β = 0.44) or were Hispanic (β = 0.21) had stronger beliefs in sexual disinhibition.

Conclusions Most parents and sons did not believe that HPV vaccination leads to sexual disinhibition among boys. Understanding the characteristics of parents and sons who hold these beliefs may help inform efforts to increase HPV vaccine uptake among boys.

Less than a quarter of parents and sons agreed with beliefs in human papillomavirus vaccine-induced sexual disinhibition, ranging from 20% to 24% agreement. We also identified correlates of sexual disinhibition beliefs among adolescent boys and their parents.

From the *Gillings School of Global Public Health, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; †Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, College of Medicine; ‡Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; and §Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

Supported, in part, by a research grant from the Investigator-Initiated Studies Program of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. The opinions expressed in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Additional support provided by GlaxoSmithKline, the National Institutes of Health (P50CA105632 and P30CA016058), and the Cancer ControlEducation Program at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (R25CA57726).

Conflict of interest: A research grant to N.T.B. and P.L.R. from Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp funded the study. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp played no role in the study design, planning, implementation, analysis, or reporting of the findings. N.T.B. has also received grants from GlaxoSmithKline and Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp and served on paid advisory boards for Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.

Correspondence: Noel T. Brewer, PhD, Department of Health Behavior,Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, 325 Rosenau Hall, CB 7440, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. E-mail:

Received for publication April 21, 2013, and accepted June 25, 2013.

© Copyright 2013 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association