Risk perceptions, sexual attitudes, and sexual behavior after HPV vaccination in 11-12 year-old girls

Tanya L.Kowalczyk Mullins, Lea E. Widdice, Susan L. Rosenthal, Gregory D. Zimet, Jessica A. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: Among 11-12 year-old girls who received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, we explored, over the subsequent 30 months: (1) trajectories of knowledge about HPV/HPV vaccines and vaccine-related risk perceptions; (2) whether knowledge and risk perceptions impacted sexual attitudes and sexual experience; (3) whether mothers, clinicians, and media influenced girls' risk perceptions, attitudes, and behavior. Methods: Girls and mothers (n = 25 dyads) completed separate, semi-structured interviews within 2 days of, and 6, 18, and 30 months after, their first HPV vaccine dose. Knowledge, risk perceptions related to HPV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and attitudes about sexual behaviors were assessed. Sexual experience was assessed at girls' 30 month interviews. Clinicians completed interviews at baseline. Transcribed interviews were analyzed using framework analysis. Results: Girls' baseline knowledge was poor but often improved with time. Most girls (n = 18) developed accurate risk perceptions about HPV but only half (n = 12) developed accurate risk perceptions about other STIs by 30 months. The vast majority of girls thought that safer sex was still important, regardless of knowledge, risk perceptions, or sexual experience. Girls whose HPV knowledge was high at baseline or increased over time tended to articulate accurate risk perceptions; those who were able to articulate accurate risk perceptions tended to report not having initiated sexual activity. Girls whose mothers demonstrated higher knowledge and/or communication about HPV vaccination tended to articulate accurate risk perceptions, whereas clinicians and media exposure did not appear to influence risk perceptions. Conclusions: Higher knowledge about HPV vaccines among mothers and girls was linked with more accurate risk perceptions among girls. Clinicians may play an important role in providing education about HPV vaccines to mothers and girls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3907-3912
Number of pages6
Issue number32
StatePublished - Jul 31 2015


  • Adolescents
  • Clinicians
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
  • Knowledge
  • Mothers
  • Sexual attitudes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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