Parental Social Position, Body Image, and Other Psychosocial Determinants and First Sexual Intercourse among 15- and 16-Year Olds

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The fact that early first sexual intercourse and sexual and reproductive health risks are associated is well established (Santelli, Lowry, Brener, & Robin, 2000); Valle, Torgersen, Roysamb, Klepp, & Thelle, 2005; Wellings et al., 2001; Wright, Abraham, & Scott, 1998). Early first sexual intercourse is associated with increased risk of teenage pregnancy (Adler & Hendrick, 1991) and sexually transmitted infections (Henderson et al., 2002); Santelli et al., 2000; Santelli, Speizer, Avery, & Kendall, 2006). While a range of social and individual level factors have been shown to be associated with first sexual intercourse (Petersen, Samuelsen, & Wichstrom, 2003; Paul, Fitzjohn, Herbison, & Dickson, 2000b), few studies have investigated its relationship to body image (Goodson, Buhi, & Dunsmore, 2006).

Early to mid-adolescence is a time of rapid growth and development, and increased attention to body image may be expected. Numerous studies have investigated body image in relation to eating disorders; however, the relationship between body image and first sexual intercourse has been studied to a lesser extent (Goodson et al., 2006). Body image is influenced by a multitude of factors (Cash & Prutzinsky, 2002) and constitutes a central part of self development and identity formation. Levine and Smolak found that body image, defined as the perception of physical appearance, including emphasis on weight concerns, was probably the most important component of global self-esteem in adolescents (Levine & Smolak, 2002). Similarities between American youth and Norwegian youth on the relative importance of body-self has also been established (Wichstrom, 1997). Body image has been associated with aspects of psychosocial health, such as depressed moods (Holsen, Kraft, & Roysamb, 2001); Haavet, Dalen, & Straand, 2006; Haavet, Sangstad, & Straand, 2005; Oppedal & Roysamb, 2004; Siegel, Yancey, Aneshensel, & Schuler, 1999), also among Norwegian youth (Holsen et al., 2001; Wichstrom, 1999). Body image is often defined as a mental representation of the body, including perceptions of appearance, feelings, and thoughts about the body. Body image is also modulated by local culture (McArthur, Holbert, & Pena, 2005). Abuse experiences can have a number of negative effects on body image (Fallon & Ackard, 2002; Kearney-Cooke & Ackard, 2000). Body image has also been found to be associated with social support (Cash & Fleming, 2002). A protector of positive body image development is social support from family (Kearney-Cooke, 2002), peers Tantleff-Dunn & Gokee, 2002), and friends (Levine & Smolak, 2002). Parental monitoring has been found to be a protective factor in avoiding sexually risky behavior (Henderson et al., 2002; Valle et al., 2005; Zimmer-Gembeck & Helfand, 2008). Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that social support is associated with first sexual intercourse among youth (Henderson et al., 2002; Paul, Fitzjohn, Herbison, & Dickson, 2000a). However, there is a lack of information regarding first sexual intercourse and body image (Wiederman, 2000). It seems that despite considerable research into factors associated with adolescent sexuality, there are inconclusive findings on first sexual intercourse and associations with body image; more rigorous methodology for future research is recommended (Goodson et al., 2006; Zimmer-Gembeck & Helfand, 2008).

Social position has previously been shown to be associated with future education plans as well as with sexual behavior (Zimmer-Gembeck & Helfand, 2008; Valle et al., 2005). Parental social position and its associations with first sexual intercourse is established in most western countries (Santelli et al., 2000; Valle et al., 2005) while some controversies remain regarding sexual debut (Kraft, 1991; Paul et al., 2000a; Pedersen et al., 2003; Sundet, Magnbus, Kvalem, Samuelsen, & Bakketeig, 1992). …