By Bonnie Rochman Friday, January 7, 2011
Girls really do care what their moms think, even once they’re all grown up. That’s the message that a new study is conveying after researchers found that college-age women are more likely to report getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine if they’d discussed it with their mothers.
“We didn’t actually look at what they said, but what we do know is important to feel that the mother can talk to her daughter and the daughter can talk to her mother and that both parties feel the vaccine is safe and effective,” says Janice Krieger, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University.
It’s not necessarily an easy conversation. Chitchatting about the merits of the HPV vaccine inevitably involve discussion of sex — that’s how the virus is transmitted, after all — and that’s where the heart-to-hearts may get a little awkward. It’s important to persevere, says Krieger, because now that there’s a way to immunize against HPV, it’s important to do it. More than half of sexually active men and women in the U.S. will contract it at some point; left untreated, it can lead to cancer. (More on Time.com: Are doctors screening for cervical cancer too often?)
Because some daughters may fear reproach or judgement from their mothers if they bring up the subject, it’s up to mothers to be proactive. “I could see why some college-age women wouldn’t want to bring it up because they’re afraid their moms will ask those questions,” says Krieger. “The strategy we need to promote is encouraging moms to say, I heard about this vaccine and I think this is a good idea, and that takes the pressure off the daughters.”