Sexual Health and Sexual Behavior among Romanian Adolescents

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Adolescence is an eXtremely challenging period of life, when drastic physical and psychological changes take place in relatively short time-frames, when most adolescents start eXperiencing seXual feelings on which some will act upon or not. Sometimes, these initiatives may prove highly maladaptive, which may negatively impact both the adolescent, his/her immediate environment, and society as a whole. The major aims of this study refer to the identification of gender specificities in seXual behavior among Romanian adolescents. In the same time, we would also like to investigate the trend in seXual behaviors specific to this age group between the two assessments: 2006 and 2010. The investigation of seXual risk behaviors as well as the attitudes and beliefs associated with these behaviors in the case of Romanian adolescents is essential for the development of efficient programs through which one may promote healthy seXual behaviors.

KEYWORDS: seXual health, seXual behavior, development, contraceptive use.

INTRODUCTION

"Adolescence is probably the most challenging and complicated period of life to describe, study, or eXperience. Between the ages of 10 and 20 more changes occur, and greater individual variation is evident, than during any other period" (Berger, 1986, p. 459). These are crucial times in life, in which drastic physical and psychological changes take place in relatively short periods of time. Major and visible transformations in the person's physical aspect and functioning may occur in less than months, thinking styles and emotional life get increasingly more compleX, socializing starts to get more diversified (peers start to be favored instead of the company of parents). Moreover, "adolescence is a critical period where many patterns of health and health behavior are formed" (Levin, Torsheim, Volleberg, Richter, Davies, Schnohr, Due, & Currie, in press). Thus, adolescence becomes a time that may seriously influence the future functioning of the individual.

However, adolescence is not only a stage in the transition from childhood to adulthood, but also a period when most adolescents start eXperiencing seXual feelings on which some will act upon (by beginning different forms of seXual intercourse) (Remez, 2000), while others will focus on non-seXual activities. One of the key aspects that may further on significantly affect the person's life is the way in which he/she modulates his/her personal relationships and seXual behavior in adolescence (Kirby, van der Sluijs, & Currie, 2010a).

Sexual health has been defined in several slightly different ways, but a comprising one is given by Berkeley and Ross (2003), as the "complete physical, emotional, mental and social well-being of individuals with regards to their seXual behavior" (as cited in Kirby et al., 2010a, p. 1). A healthy and harmonious seXual life is an essential component of the general development of the person, at social, physical and psychological levels. It does not only presume that one would try to avoid unwanted pregnancies and getting infected with seXually transmitted infections (STIs), but it also concentrates on the integration of physical, emotional, intellectual, and social aspects of individual seXuality. The concept of "healthy seXual development" refers to the accumulation of knowledge and development of attitudes regarding seXuality (own and others), and seXual eXperiences and relationships (WHO, 2004). SeXual maturation in adolescence includes besides physical and physiological characteristics of puberty, also a series of psychological changes at personal level and interpersonal relationships. Consequently, in order to develop a healthy seXuality, adolescents have to learn to accept themselves, how to deal efficiently with their newly developed seXuality, and how to establish a healthy relationship with peers.

Adolescence is a period of opportunity and vulnerability (Currie, Gabhainn, Godeau, Roberts, Smith, Currie, et al. …