"I just think that doctors need to ask more questions": Sexual minority and majority adolescents' experiences talking about sexuality with healthcare providers

Patient Educ Couns. 2016 Sep;99(9):1467-72. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2016.06.004. Epub 2016 Jun 14.


Objective: To examine adolescent and young adults' experiences of sexuality communication with physicians, and gain advice for improving interactions.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with questions focusing on: puberty, romantic attractions, sexual orientation, dating, sexual behavior, clinical environment, and role of parents. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis with both open and axial coding.

Results: Five themes emerged from interviews: 1) need for increased quantity of sexual communication, 2) issues of confidentiality/privacy, 3) comfort (physician discomfort, physical space), 4) inclusivity (language use, gender-fluid patients, office environment), 5) need for increased quality of sexual communication.

Conclusions: Sexual minority and majority adolescents and young adults indicate sexuality discussions with physicians are infrequent and need improvement. They indicate language use and clinical physical environment are important places where physicians can show inclusiveness and increase comfort.

Practice implications: Physicians should make an effort to include sexual communication at every visit. They should consider using indirect questions to assess sexual topics, provide other outlets for sexual health information, and ask parents to leave the exam room to improve confidentiality. Clinic staff should participate in Safe Zone trainings, and practices can promote inclusion with signs that indicate safe and accepting environments.

Keywords: Adolescent; Adolescent-physician sex communication; LGBTQ; Physician-patient communication; Sexuality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Confidentiality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Sexuality*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust
  • Young Adult