Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 11, pp 2280–2290 | Cite as

Influential Factors of Puerto Rican Mother–Child Communication About Sexual Health Topics

  • Maria Idalí Torres
  • Phillip Granberry
  • Sharina Person
  • Jeroan Allison
  • Milagros Rosal
  • Sarah Rustan


Introduction Latina mothers play a central role in raising and socializing their children; however, few studies have examined the cultural, socio-cognitive and neighborhood-related variables influencing the level of communication between Puerto Rican mothers and their children about sexuality and sexual health. This cross-sectional study sought to examine these influences. Methods Puerto Rican mothers with children aged 10–19 years (n = 193) were selected randomly for an ethnographic interview as part of a community participatory action research project in a U.S. urban northeastern community. Results Bivariate analyses found statistically significant associations between the child’s age (p = 0.002), the mother’s past communication about traditional gender role norms of women (marianismo) (p < 0.001), her positive outcome expectations for communications with her child (p < 0.025), and her perceptions of the physical condition (p < 0.001) and sexual health problems (p = 0.047) in the neighborhood. In a multivariate model, all of these variables remained significant except sexual health problems, and mother’s attitudes toward the obligations of children to parents (familismo) emerged as a factor associated with a decrease in the number of sexual health topics that mothers raised with their children. No significant effects were found for mother’s spiritual and religious experience (religiosidad). Discussion Our study highlights the importance of marianismo as a framework within which Puerto Rican mothers communicate sexual health information as well as the need to improve mothers’ confidence discussing sexual health issues with their children. Future public health interventions to promote communication about sexuality and sexual health among Puerto Rican mothers should consider addressing this issue as a part of comprehensive neighborhood improvement projects.


Puerto Rican Mother–child communication Sexual health Ethnographic survey Marianismo 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Minority Health And Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P60MD006912. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Inc. Community Advisory Committee, and contribution of the undergraduate students in the Latino Leadership Opportunity Program of the University of Massachusetts Boston in the implementation of the Por Ahí Dicen project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, The Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public PolicyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Economics, The Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public PolicyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Quantitative SciencesUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School WorcesterWorcesterUSA
  4. 4.Division of Preventive and Behavioral MedicineUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School WorcesterWorcesterUSA
  5. 5.The Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public PolicyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

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