Theses Master's

Let’s Talk About Sex (Even Though We’re Muslim) A Qualitative Research Proposal to Explore Parent-Teen Communication about Sexual and Reproductive Health in Muslim-American Families

Umar, Nawal Qaiser

Sexual and reproductive health knowledge is critical to the development and well-being of adolescents and young adults. Given the rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adolescents and the consistent downward trend in condom use, there is an increasing need for comprehensive sexuality education. However, schools and community structures are not always able to sufficiently meet this need and parent-teen communication about sexual and reproductive health knowledge is therefore crucial. Moreover, adolescence is a time where increasing agency and autonomy can be balanced with parental guidance that will positively influence this emerging demographic’s decision-making and health outcomes. Parent-teen communication contributes to increased contraceptive usage, increased protection from STIs, and increased self-efficacy for adolescents to discuss intimate topics with future partners. Such conversations, however, may be less likely to occur or include misinformation in religiously conservative households where norms regarding sexuality hinder such subjects from being discussed. Muslim- Americans represent a diverse demographic of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but certain religious tenets, such as rules regarding sexuality, are uniformly recognized. While sexuality is considered an extension of spirituality in Islam, expressing sexuality outside of marriage is prohibited, even if this may not always be the case in practice. Further, conversations about sexual and reproductive health may be avoided in Muslim-American households with conservative sexual attitudes. While many Muslim adolescents may abstain from sexual behavior, they still need the information to understand their own sexuality as such information is necessary for their sexual wellbeing. Thus, additional research is needed to understand the attitudes and behaviors regarding sex in the demographic of Muslim youth, both adolescents and young adults, especially in America with a goal of developing targeted sexual and reproductive health interventions such as culturally-relevant sexuality education. The purpose of this study is to address the scarcity in research and understand how parent-teen communication about sexual and reproductive health occurs in Muslim-American households. Specifically, the study will use qualitative research methods including small focus groups and semi-structured interviews of 30 parent-teen dyads to understand the frequency and characteristics of conversations about sexual behavior, contraception, healthy relationships, and other topics related to sexuality in these households. Study objectives include exploring how these conversations are initiated, what topics are included or excluded, the attitudes surrounding these conversations, and the barriers and facilitators to their occurrence.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Philbin, Morgan M.
M.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Published Here
March 30, 2021


Keywords: muslim, american, parent teen communication, sex, sexual health, reproductive health, SRH, islam