Correlates of Adolescent Assertiveness with HIV Avoidance in a Four-Nation Sample

Article excerpt

Social or generalized assertiveness is the capacity to express the real self (Lieberman, 1972) without any sense of guilt (McFall & Lillesand, 1971). It is the ability to say "no" or "yes," as appropriate, to requests--to express positive/negative feelings and conveniently initiate, sustain or terminate a social discuss (Lazarus, 1973). Sexual assertiveness is the ability and/or confidence to initiate, sustain or dislocate a sensuous conversation without blushing (Maticka-Tayndale, 1991). It entails the capacity to enact social assertiveness in a sexual milieu. (Painter, 1997).

Conceptually, social assertiveness is akin to sexual assertiveness, yet different from it. Both are similar to the extent that they are encountered in interpersonal relationships. They are different in that the presence of one in the individual may not assure the presence of the other. The social may manifest in the individual without the sexual and vice-versa. Few individuals manifest both. Because the desire for natural coitus is a human need (Taylor, 1991), the urgency for which may vary in young adults, variance in sexual and social assertiveness of individuals may be expected.

Studies of the impact of assertiveness on HIV risk (e.g., Millan & Ross, 1987; Kelly & St. Lawrence, 1988; Ross et al., 1989, 1991; Kelly, 1989; Zamboni et al., 2000) have tended to overemphasize the social at the expense of the sexual. These studies utilized the largely generalized assertiveness test instruments to report positive associations with risk avoidance. Not only is the place of sexual assertiveness in risk management undermined by these instruments, but the efficacy or otherwise of the two behavioral traits are blurred. It is not clear which of the two traits offers greater usefulness for risk control. What is more, the reported studies had intra-national designs. In the global era of AIDS, international designs may be more enlightening.

According to Lebra (1993), the ontology of social relations may differ for Asians and Westerners. Most Euro-Americans cherish the "I," epitomized by individualism and self-interest (Lau, 1984) while Asians cherish the "We," symbolized in the greater power of group influences. The present study employed a mixed international sample of Nigeria, Thailand, China, and Japan, to test the study hypothesis cross-culturally. For all samples, it was hypothesized that (1) although the combination of social and sexual assertiveness might be required conditions for HIV risk avoidance, disparate effects might exist; (2) between both traits, sexual assertiveness may provide a better risk-avoidance behavioral mechanism than social assertiveness.

METHOD

Participants

Participants of the study were 1,957 young college adults: 1,029 males; 928 females, selected from 2 Nigerian (775 students), 2 Thai (514), 2 Chinese (282), and 2 (Japanese (386) universities by indigenous researchers.

Four college auditoriums, each able to host 125 students, were used at each of the Thai, Japan, and Nigerian universities, but in China, two halls with the same 125 seat capacity were selected. Theoretically, each country had 1,000 prospective participants, except China which had 500 for logistic reasons.

Class teachers distributed the study questionnaires (translated from English to the Thai, Chinese, and Japanese languages by the participating researchers. The students filled out and placed the questionnaires at their convenience into boxes provided. Questionnaires had no markings in order to ensure confidentiality. Students were not required to give their names and/or any form of identification on the questionnaires. The return rate was about 56% (N = 3,509).

The selected universities in the four countries had one commonality: they were located in cosmopolitan centers, i.e., Ile-Ife, Bangkok, Peking, and Tokyo. The students also had commonalities: they were enrolled in health/physical education programs in their respective universities. …