Changing the script: Intergenerational communication about sexual and reproductive health in Niamey, Niger

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Most strategies to reduce adolescent pregnancies have been designed to educate adolescents directly about family planning (FP), while adolescents often cite peers and parents as their primary sources of sexual health information. Yet parents’ lack of knowledge about sexual and reproductive health (SRH), low self-efficacy to initiate conversations, and adverse social norms act as barriers to open intergenerational communication. To better understand the normative environment influencing communication between parents and youth about FP/SRH in francophone West Africa, the USAID supported Breakthrough RESEARCH project conducted a multi-stage qualitative study in Niger. During Stage 1, the research team developed a screening tool (based on a literature review) to categorize research participants into those who practiced open intergenerational communication about FP/SRH, and those who did not. Stage 2 consisted of 40 in-depth interviews with young people (ages 15–24) and adults ( ≥ 25 years old), stratified by whether they practiced open intergenerational communication. Results showed restrictive social norms related to youth SRH and access to information and services. However, particularly among participants classified as open-communicators, there is a hierarchy of norms and normative beliefs, with abstinence as the most virtuous decision for youth, but approving communication about and access to SRH services in order to minimize harm. Participants rely on values such as the protection of youth, protection of family honor and promotion of well-being as means to act in counter-normative ways and communicate about FP/SRH. Implications for the field include demystifying and destigmatizing SRH topics, increasing adults’ communication skills, and changing the “script” to a more life-affirming view of SRH.






Breakthrough RESEARCH