Factors Associated with the Sexual Experiences of Underprivileged Mexican Adolescents

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Family functioning impacts diverse aspects of adolescent psychology. For example, elements of the parental relationship are related to children's emotional autonomy (Lamborn & Steinberg, 1993). Adolescent depression has been found to be associated with a family history of affective impairment, poor parental relations, dysfunctional family interaction, and insecure bonding (Morton & Maharaj, 1993). Family psychodynamics are related to adolescents' body image and eating behavior (Jimenez, Diaz de Leon, & Malacara, 1992). Noller, Seth-Smith, Bouma, and Schweitzer (1992) found a strong relationship between adolescent self-concept and diverse family functioning variables. Novy, Gaa, Frankiewicz, Liberman, and Amerikaner (1992) found an association between the adaptation and cohesion of family members and the ego development of juvenile offenders.

In regard to adolescent sexuality, attitudes and knowledge may be related to family structure and functioning (Huerta-Franco, Diaz de Leon, & Malacara, 1996). Tseng and McDermott (1979) have noted the importance of parental attitudes, as well as the division of roles and interpersonal transactions within the family, for psychosexual adaptation.

The present research investigated family and personal characteristics and their association with adolescents' sexuality. Specifically, underprivileged adolescents in Mexico were studied. These adolescents were unable to continue at school and lived in areas with limited social services and work opportunities.

METHOD

Sample

Three groups of adolescents - unemployed, underemployed, and factory workers - were sampled. Unemployed and underemployed adolescents were drawn from suburban areas of the city of Leon (Los Castillos; La Laguna; Rivera de la Presa; El Carmen; Valle Hermoso 1, 2, and 3; Santa Cecilia; Casa Blanca; Nuevo Amanecer; La Sandia; and Leon II). The fully employed adolescents were randomly selected from 16 of 26 footwear and tannery factories (10 of the proprietors refused to allow their workers to participate, citing lack of time).

A total of 712 adolescents agreed to participate after the purpose of the study was explained and assurances of confidentiality were provided. Those who did not complete the questionnaire fully were dropped from the analyses. The final sample included 523 youths, ages 14 to 20.

Questionnaire

The questionnaire was validated in a previous study (Huerta-Franco et al., 1996). It contained 121 items and solicited the following information.

General data. Data on age, education, occupation, and place of residence were obtained.

Socioeconomic markers. Socioeconomic level was determined on the basis of parents' education and annual income. If the father was absent, only the education and income of the mother was included. An index combining these two variables, with values ranging from 2 to 8, was used in the analyses.

Family structure. The family was classified according to the members living at home: without parents - neither of the parents was present in the home; uniparental - single-parent family; nuclear - both parents were present in the home; and extended - other relatives, such as married siblings, grandparents, uncles, or aunts, were also present. Data on number of siblings, their ages, and religious beliefs and practices were also collected.

Family functioning. Several aspects of family functioning were evaluated using the McMaster model (Epstein, Bishop, & Daldwin, 1978). Problem solving in the family was evaluated using five categories, with better solution of problems rated highest. Communication in the family was classified into four categories, with clear and direct communication rated highest. Affective responsiveness to positive and negative situations was rated using four categories. Responsibility, or role, assumed by each family member, such as economic support, nurturance, decision making, teaching of ethics/social skills, and leadership, was evaluated using four categories, with higher scores if the role was assumed by either the father or the mother. …