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Parent-adolescent communication on adolescent sexual and reproductive health in sub-Saharan Africa: a qualitative review and thematic synthesis

Usonwu, I., Ahmad, R. & Curtis-Tyler, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-8212-1134 (2021). Parent-adolescent communication on adolescent sexual and reproductive health in sub-Saharan Africa: a qualitative review and thematic synthesis. Reproductive Health, 18(1), article number 202. doi: 10.1186/s12978-021-01246-0


Improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health continues to be a global public health need. Effective parent–adolescent communication on sexual health issues has been cited as a factor that could influence adolescents towards adopting safer sexual behaviour. The current review synthesises qualitative literature to understand the nature and relevance of parent–adolescent sexual and reproductive health communication and the barriers to effective communication in sub-Saharan Africa.

We systematically searched and synthesised qualitative literature published between 1st January 1990 to December 2019 and searched from CINAHL, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Global Health, EMBASE, PubMed, and Google Scholar. We assessed the methodological quality of included studies using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) checklist. We thematically analysed qualitative data from the included primary studies.

Fifteen studies were included. Social and physiological events act as triggers for initiating discussions. Fear of personal, social, and economic consequences of high-risk sexual behaviours act as drivers for communication but also carry a negative framing which hinders open discussion. Lack of parental self-efficacy and cultural and religious norms create an uncomfortable environment leaving peers, media, teachers, and siblings as important and sometimes preferred sources of sexual health information.

While mothers recognise their own role in adolescent sexual and reproductive health and school-based interventions can act as useful prompts for initiating discussion, fathers are mainly absent from home-based dialogue. Fear dominates the narrative, and the needs of adolescents remain unarticulated.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Publisher Keywords: Adolescent, Parent, Sexual health, Sexuality, Sex education, Sex, Reproductive health
Subjects: R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
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