Online Program

Knowing versus doing: Sexual health knowledge and its influence on the sexual behaviors of minority youth

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jamie Dunaev, Childhood Studies Department, Camden NJ, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ
Robin Stevens, PhD, MPH, Center for Health Behavior and Communication Research, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
Stacia Gilliard Matthews, PhD, Criminal Justice, Rutgers University-Camden, Camden, NJ
While unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) represent a serious public health threat for adolescents in general, these risks are particularly pressing for minority youth. Teen birth rates, as well as the risk for contracting STDs including HIV, are in general higher among African American and Hispanic youth (Basch, 2011; Sales et al., 2012). While the prevalence of these issues is well documented in the literature, less is known about adolescents' decision-making processes concerning sexual behaviors. Theoretically based in critical race feminism, this study seeks to identify the extent of sexual health knowledge among these adolescents as well as how this knowledge influences individual attitudes and pathways toward and away from sexual behaviors. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 60 African American and Hispanic adolescents ages 13-20, living in impoverished urban neighborhoods, concerning their attitudes and beliefs about sex, pregnancy, and STDs. Data analyses were guided by Ground Theory procedures outlined in Strauss & Corbin (1990) and LaRossa (2005). The findings revealed a wide spectrum of sexual health knowledge among the participants ranging from accurate information to rumors and myths. Furthermore the extent to which this knowledge influenced adolescents' decision to engage in or abstain from sexual behaviors, including contraception use, varied greatly. We conclude that while sexual health knowledge does play a role in the decision making processes of adolescents in terms of sexual behaviors, other factors such as peer influence and parental monitoring are also important. The implications of these findings will also be discussed.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Diversity and culture

Learning Objectives:
Assess the extent of sexual health knowledge among minority youth. Identify the pathways of influence sexual health knowledge has on sexual behaviors.

Keyword(s): Adolescent Health, Sexual Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a member of the research team responsible for the collection and analysis of this data and am also currently a PhD student studying adolescent health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.