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“Sex Will Make Your Fingers Grow Thin and Then You Die”: The Interplay of Culture, Myths, and Taboos on African Immigrant Mothers’ Perceptions of Reproductive Health Education with Their Daughters Aged 10–14 Years

Agbemenu, K and Hannan, M and Kitutu, J and Terry, MA and Doswell, W (2018) “Sex Will Make Your Fingers Grow Thin and Then You Die”: The Interplay of Culture, Myths, and Taboos on African Immigrant Mothers’ Perceptions of Reproductive Health Education with Their Daughters Aged 10–14 Years. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 20 (3). 697 - 704. ISSN 1557-1912

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Abstract

© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. This paper examines the convergence of culture, myths, and taboos surrounding reproductive health issues African immigrant women, living in the United States, learned during childhood in their countries of origin. We also discuss how mothers’ perceptions of reproductive health education (RHE) influenced the education of their own daughters aged 10–14 years. This was a qualitative descriptive study. Data were collected via interviews and demographic survey. The sample size was 20 African immigrant mothers living in a mid-sized city in the U.S. Interviews were transcribed verbatim. Qualitative data was analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Myths and taboos related to menstruation, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS were reported by the women interviewed. Discussion of these issues was largely taboo, and most myths the mothers learned growing up pertained to sexual intercourse, pregnancy prevention, and pregnancy termination using non-hormonal ingested substances. Myths and taboos about sexual issues are widespread in Africa and are propagated to control sexual behavior, especially that of unmarried people, particularly women. By examining these myths and taboos, we are able to somewhat contextualize the mothers’ immigrant experience regarding RHE. Although myths were reported, the majority of mothers did not appear to believe them. The most significant taboo reported was sexual intercourse. This in turn led to mothers’ overemphasis on abstinence for their daughters. It is also noteworthy that this sample contained mainly African women who overall were highly educated, spoke English, and could adequately navigate life in the U.S. It is unclear what the results would be if we were to examine African immigrant women with less achievements in these areas.


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Details

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Agbemenu, K
Hannan, M
Kitutu, Jjmm@pitt.eduJMM
Terry, MA
Doswell, W
Date: 1 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health
Volume: 20
Number: 3
Page Range: 697 - 704
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s10903-017-0675-4
Schools and Programs: School of Nursing > Nursing
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1557-1912
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2019 13:05
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2019 04:55
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/37093

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