Get access

“I got caught up in the game”: Generational influences on contraceptive decision making in African–American women


  • Allyssa L. Harris RN, PhD, WHNP-BC

    (Assistant Professor), Corresponding author
    • William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
    Search for more papers by this author


Allyssa L. Harris, RN, PhD, WHNP-BC, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Ave, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. Tel: 617-552-0550; Fax: 781-552-0745; E-mail:



Reproductive health disparities are a significant issue for African–American adolescents. This study was designed to explore the cross-generational influences on adolescent sexuality in a cohort of daughters/granddaughters of U.S. born African–American women.

Data sources

Data were generated through interviews with triads of African–American women: grandmothers, and their daughters and granddaughters, to gain insight into the phenomena of early sexual debut, high rates of unintended pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections from a cross-generational perspective.


Six themes emerged from the data: southern influences; a worldview of relationships; communication–key to preparedness; seeking information from mom; “I got caught up in the game”; and contraceptive use and beliefs. In this sample, mothers’ and grandmothers’ culture, values, and beliefs significantly influenced the adolescents’ sexual and reproductive decision making.

Implications for practice

Clinicians' knowledge of African–American culture, beliefs, and family values is key when providing guidance about contraception to these young women.