Introduction Latina mothers play a central role in raising and socializing their children; however, few studies have examined the cultural, socio-cognitive and neighborhood-related variables influencing the level of communication between Puerto Rican mothers and their children about sexuality and sexual health. This cross-sectional study sought to examine these influences. Methods Puerto Rican mothers with children aged 10-19 years (n = 193) were selected randomly for an ethnographic interview as part of a community participatory action research project in a U.S. urban northeastern community. Results Bivariate analyses found statistically significant associations between the child's age (p = 0.002), the mother's past communication about traditional gender role norms of women (marianismo) (p < 0.001), her positive outcome expectations for communications with her child (p < 0.025), and her perceptions of the physical condition (p < 0.001) and sexual health problems (p = 0.047) in the neighborhood. In a multivariate model, all of these variables remained significant except sexual health problems, and mother's attitudes toward the obligations of children to parents (familismo) emerged as a factor associated with a decrease in the number of sexual health topics that mothers raised with their children. No significant effects were found for mother's spiritual and religious experience (religiosidad). Discussion Our study highlights the importance of marianismo as a framework within which Puerto Rican mothers communicate sexual health information as well as the need to improve mothers' confidence discussing sexual health issues with their children. Future public health interventions to promote communication about sexuality and sexual health among Puerto Rican mothers should consider addressing this issue as a part of comprehensive neighborhood improvement projects.
Keywords: Ethnographic survey; Marianismo; Mother–child communication; Puerto Rican; Sexual health.