“Today we are not good at talking about these things”: A mixed methods study of Inuit parent/guardian-youth sexual health communication in Greenland

  • Elizabeth Rink Department of Health and Human Development, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. Email: elizabeth.rink@montana.edu.
  • Ruth Montgomery-Andersen Ilisimatursarfik, University of Greenland, Nuuk, Greenland. Email: rumo@uni.gl.
  • Mike Anastario Research Triangle Institute International, RTP, North Carolina. Email: manastario@rti.org.


Some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are reported in the Arctic. For example, the Inuit youth of Greenland have the highest STI rates in the circumpolar region. In this study, we used a mixed method approach to examine parent/guardian–youth communication about STIs and other sexual health topics. The quantitative component of the study involved the parents/guardians completing a brief questionnaire while the qualitative component involved their participation in focus groups. Parents/guardians reported that, although they found little difficulty communicating with youth in general, this was not the case for sexual topics. Similarly, parents/guardians reported a lack of communication about topics such as masturbation, why people engage in sex, and what it feels like to have sex. In general parents/guardians stated that it is uncomfortable for them to talk with their youth about sexual matters. At the same time, they are concerned about the high rates of unwanted pregnancy in their communities, and they would like to see more collaborative partnerships aimed at increasing sexual health education for youth. Future STI prevention efforts in Greenland would benefit from involving Greenlandic youth and their families in the design of community-based sexual health education programs that increase communication skills in families about topics related to sex. Community based efforts that involve families and empower them to educate their youth around STI risk-prevention behaviours is a necessary area of future development in Greenland.

Research Papers