Parent-adolescent communication on risky sexual behaviour : facilitators and barriers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Oluwatola, Fasakin F.
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The consequences of adolescent risk-taking behaviours such as HIV/AIDs, teenage pregnancies, STIs, and depression have become a challenging health concern not only to themselves but to society at large. The adolescent stage is a difficult period that, if not well-handled and managed, can lead to all these challenges. In South Africa, HIV prevalence rates and unplanned teenage pregnancies continue to remain high. In response to this, a study on parent-adolescent communication on adolescent risk-taking behaviours was undertaken. Parent-child communication about sexual reproductive health issues is identified as an effective means to tackle these risks and encourage self-efficacy as well as behavioural change among adolescents. This study investigated communication between parents and adolescents in relation to adolescent risky behaviours. Via the theoretical framework of the Extended Parallel Process Model, the study identifies the perceived threats to which adolescents are exposed, regarding their involvement in risky sexual behaviours and their perceived susceptibility and perceived severity of the consequences of risky sexual behaviour. Use of the Rommetveit and Blakar Communication model and Theory of Adolescent Development aims to identify the approaches that parents adopt, which may either hinder or engender effective communication. Furthermore, approaches that encourage self-efficacy regarding healthy sexual behaviour as well as the possible reasons for adolescents’ involvement in risky behaviours. In-depth interviews were conducted among eight participants (four adolescents between the ages of 18-21 and four parents who have adolescents within this age range) from Mayville, Durban. Theoretical thematic analysis generated four themes in relation to the research questions. These include i) parent-adolescent perceptions towards adolescent risk-taking behaviours, ii) sex-talk: factors that influence parent-child communication about sex, iii) information sources for sexuality and risky behaviour issues, iv) approaches in parent-adolescent communication on sexual matters. The findings show a correlation between parent-child communication and adolescent risky sexual behaviours. Though participants acknowledged the importance of parent-child communication on adolescent sexual decision-making processes, communications were vi primarily characterised by threats, instructions, warnings and emphasis on the consequences of risky behaviours such as HIV, unplanned pregnancies. These were perceived by parents to encourage behavioural change among adolescents while adolescents perceived this to hinder communication with parents, thus, encouraging exposure to other channels of communication such as media and/or peers. When adolescents perceived themselves to be vulnerable to the consequences and knowledgeable about the severity of these consequences, it was perceived to dissuade them from the risks. This study also found that opportunistic communication (a communication approach where both parents and adolescents sought immediate use of opportunities to initiate sexuality discussions) characterised with open communication allows for close and friendly parent-child relationships, and is more likely to encourage healthy behaviours. Communications were found to be triggered by community occurrences, television, and school work. Although findings from the study revealed that parent-child communication transpires within the family, a myriad of factors were identified to have hindered effective communication that could encourage adolescent self-efficacy in the face of risks. Overall, the study found that when parent-child communication is deficient, it negatively affects adolescent sexual decision making. On the other hand, when parents engage their adolescents in sex communication, using an open discussion approach, it tends to encourage adolescents to engage in positive behaviours.