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Families, Schools, Church, and Doctors: Adolescent Girls’ Relational and Contextualized Understandings of the HPV Vaccine

Tue, August 14, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Salon H


In Canada, students receive the HPV vaccine in school vaccination programs and requires parental consent. In Ontario schools, students are meant to learn about HPV and the vaccine during health class, but this education varies by school and is at the discretion of the teacher. Based on 19 qualitative interviews with girls (aged 11-17; grades 7-12), as well as separate interviews with their parents (mostly mothers), this paper narratively uncovers the ways adolescent girls make sense of HPV and the vaccine. Doing this, I put girls’ narratives in dialogue with their mothers’, often responsible for consenting to this vaccine, and focus on the ways that mothers’ narratives, parental interactions, and school factor into how girls think about these topics. Analytically, I highlight five girls, each of whom have unique interactions with the topic of HPV, the vaccine, and their larger social landscapes. I find that girls’ health knowledge and their understandings of HPV and the vaccine operate in relation to other people, particularly their mothers, and larger sociocultural structures. Unlike common and dominant research that focuses solely on what exactly girls do or do not know, my research contextualizes girls, focusing on the way girls’ knowledge, understanding, and their perceptions of responsibility operate relationally.


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