Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Health Promotion, Education and Behavior

First Advisor

Daniela B Friedman


Background:African American young men who have sex with men (AAYMSM) experience an array of adverse health concerns. These young men are at an increased risk for substance use, risky sexual behavior, victimization, and HIV/AIDS. These health concerns are more pronounced among AAYMSM because of the societal stigma and discrimination associated with both their sexual orientation and race. Previous research has shown the influence of parent-child communication on adolescent health behavior; however, no studies have been conducted which examine this phenomenon among AAYMSM. To my knowledge, this was the first study to include both AAYMSM and parents of AAYMSM and elicit clear recommendations for improving delivery of health information for this population and communication about sensitive health issues, including HIV/AIDS and sexual orientation.

Methods:This study employed a mixed methods research design. Data were collected using semi-structured focus groups/interviews and a cross-sectional survey. Forty-two (42) self-identified AAYMSM, ages 18-21, and ten (10) parents of AAYMSM residing in Atlanta, Georgia participated in this research.

Results:The majority of youth participants reported that disclosure of their sexual orientation caused tension in their relationship with their parent. Youth and parent participants reported that they communicated at least once a month, with the most discussed topic being sexual orientation (81.0%), followed by HIV/AIDS (64.3%). General health was the least discussed topic among youth and parent participants. Qualitative analyses revealed that the most reported barriers to discussing health issues with parents was fear and embarrassment for youth participants, whereas parents reported lack of time and limited AAYMSM-specific health information as a barrier to not engaging in communication with their child. Youth reported that HIV/AIDS was the most difficult topic to discuss with parents, which was surprising given that parents reported that HIV/AIDS was what they wanted to protect their sons from the most. Participants recommended a number of strategies for improving parent-child communication including being prepared with accurate health information, initiating conversation, and being open-minded and non-judgmental. Additionally, youth participants recommended a complex approach to delivering health information, referencing both parents and social networking sites as preferred sources of health information.

Implications:The recommended communication strategies that emerged from this study can help AAYMSM and parents communicate about sensitive health topics in an effort to reduce or prevent AAYMSM involvement in risky health behaviors. Examining these communication and health needs from the perspectives of AAYMSM and parents is essential to ensure that future health information and health promotion interventions are developed and disseminated specifically with both AAYMSM and parents of AAYMSM in mind.