School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)


John C. Thomas


Immigrants, Parent-child Conversations, Cultural Shame, Sexual Health


Counseling | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Abstract Sub-Saharan African families experience communication barriers due to factors such as sexual silence, cultural taboos, and shame, preventing them from having sexual health communication with their children. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of Sub-Saharan African immigrant parents concerning sexual shame and parents’ attitudes, knowledge, and comfort level in having a conversation with their pre-adolescent children concerning sexuality and sexual practices. While numerous researchers have demonstrated efficiency in audience-specific interventions, the literature reflects little attention to African immigrants, specifically Sub-Saharan immigrants. The research questions addressed perceptions of influences of a decision to discuss issues relating to sex and sexuality with their children, attitudes about their self-efficacy in parent-child communications about sex, and communication barriers based on cultural taboos and belief systems. Data collection was by individual interviews of 12 Sub-Saharan immigrant adults having resided in the United States for 10 years or more. Inductive analysis of qualitative data revealed communication barriers due to cultural beliefs, cultural taboos, and shame. In addition, another barrier identified was parents’ lack of knowledge concerning sexual health. Findings indicated acculturation presented challenges to many immigrant parents. However, most parents indicated an interest in sex education training to be well prepared to talk with their children on sexual health matters. These results may inform the counseling profession on strategies for providing counseling services to Sub-Saharan immigrants. Counselors should be knowledgeable of cultural differences and ready to help immigrant parents who struggle with initiating a parent-based sexual health conversation. It will also help to improve parent-child sexual health communication