1.1 Background of the Study
The period of adolescence span through the second decade of life and it is characterized by major bio-psycho-social changes which have great implications in the area of adolescent reproductive health. These changes include adjusting to the altered appearance and functioning of a sexuality maturing body, learning to deal with sexual desires, confronting sexual attitudes and values, experimenting with sexual behaviors, and integrating these feelings, attitudes and experiences into a developing sense of adulthood. It is indeed a crucial phase of life for the adolescent and comes with this stressful period in which the adolescent tries to adjust to his/her varied physical, emotional and psychological changes. According to Stemberg (1989) one of the major development concerns paramount during this period is sexuality. At this stage the adolescent is curious to ask many questions. Hence, the need for parents to support and guide them at this stage, becomes imperative (Howard, 1989). Lack of information and knowledge regarding sexuality and human reproductive health have caused some adolescents to engage in risky sexual behaviors.
Sexuality and reproductive health education generate misconception, confusion, fear and unwanted caution for the adolescents and their parents (Satcher, 2001). According to miller and Hain (1989), parents are in a unique position to help socialize adolescent into healthy sexual adults, by providing accurate information on sexuality and by fostering responsible sexual decision-making skills. It has been observed that female adolescents tend to be closer to their mother on sex problems and other reproductive issues (Yoleniss and Smoller, 1985). A study of more than 1,400 parents of 15-24 years olds adolescents’ girls in Ibadan to determine the processes of sexuality learning in the home environment revealed that they took their questions regarding sexual matter to their mothers (Robert and Hott, 1980).
Although studies have shown that mother-daughter communication on sexual issues maybe associated with positive reproductive behaviours and that parent especially mothers have tried to initiate this communication but some of them lack the knowledge and skills for supportive pattern of sexual communication. In traditional African Societies, studies have revealed that mothers used story telling as a strategy for family sexuality education. The mothers used stories from their own experience to accomplish socialization/enculturation and discourage their daughters from making the same mistakes that they reportedly made (such as becoming pregnant during the adolescent stage). Research supported the fact that traditional stories served as cultural artifacts that described the cultural pathways for adolescent proper reproductive behaviour (Nwoja, 2000). A survey by Owunaamam (1983) among secondary school student in Oyo state, Nigeria showed that mothers provide information only on marriage, menstruation and sexually transmitted disease while peer and magazines provide information on sexual intercourse, ejaculation, contraception and romance. Daughters were less likely to be sexually active when their mothers report more discussion related to negative consequences of premarital sex in a supportive communication pattern (Satcher, 2000). In contemporary Nigerian society, mothers and their daughter are described as defensive, avoidant and resorting to such strategies as using platitude or being flippant to keep the conversation less personal (Al-dons, 1983, Lefleowite, kahibaugh, Sijman, 1996, Rosenthal, 1999, Rozema, 1986). In an observational studies, maternal communication about sex and sexuality compared to communication about other topics are indirect, involve more dominance and unilateral power assertion, less mutuality and turn taking, how level of comfort, where as adolescent communication involve more contempt less honesty and more avoidance (Kawbaugh et al 1996).
Researchers have found that healthy adolescent reproductive behaviour is associated with particular pattern of verbal communication (Stenberg, 1989). Wesis and follamsbee (1984) have drawn a distinction between supportive and constrictive pattern of sexuality communication and how it affects adolescent sexual behaviors within the family.
In Nigeria, discussing sexuality among unmarried people is seen as an abomination or taboo. This is because of the culture of silence about sexual matters that prevails in the country. Some Nigerians have the belief that sexual discussion encourages sexual experiments among the adolescents (Esiet and Oyebola, 2000). Also many religious leaders believe that providing such information and services such as contraceptives (condoms) from parents and society to adolescents will encourage then to be promiscuous.
According to Oladopo (1994) the gap-in communication between mothers and their daughter can expose them to unhealthy reproductive health behaviour such as early age of sexual initiation, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, sexual transmitted infection (HIV/AIDs) etc. Adolescent from single parents families, girls in particular are more likely to start sexual relationship at a younger age (Mullar and Moore, 1990). Another study showed an increase in sexual initiation among parental illiteracy, polygamy and parental death among adolescents’ girls.
It is against this background that the study is situated to investigate the effects of mother daughter sexuality communication patterns and adolescent reproductive health in Enugu State, Nigeria.
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