A Theoretical Model of Early Teen Sexual Behavior: What Research Tells Us about Mother's Influence on the Sexual Behavior of Early Adolescent Girls

Article excerpt

Abstract: Purpose. The purpose of this study was to examine how well two predictors from the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA), attitude and subjective norms explain factors influencing early sexual behavior using a preliminary sample of early adolescent African American girls. Study Design and Methods. This study used a cross-sectional descriptive design with a sample of 106 African American girls, ages 11 to 14.3 years, attending seven public middle schools in a mid-size northeastern city. Structural equation modeling (SEM), with the maximum likelihood estimation procedure, was used to test the overall fit of the TRA hypothesized model. Results. Preliminary findings suggest that early adolescent African American girls are influenced in their intentions to abstain from early sexual behavior by their mother, rather than by their fathers and peers. The SEM results indicated both attitude and subjective norms (mother, father and peer) are instrumental in predicting intention to abstain from early sexual behavior. Clinical Implications. Mother-daughter dyads should be included in nursing strategies developed around female adolescent sexuality and sexual behavior issues. Nurses have a pivotal role in providing information on healthy sexual and sexuality development by providing girls and their mothers with information empowering mothers to discuss these issues with their daughters. Nurses can assist young girls in exploring their awakening sexual feelings, devising ways to discuss these feelings with their mothers, and suggesting age-appropriate heterosocial activities.

Key Words: adolescent girls, mothers, sexual behavior, research

Sexual intercourse is becoming increasingly common at earlier ages, particularly during early adolescence (Porter, Oakley, Ronis & Neal, 1996; Satcher, 2001 http:// www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/sexualhealth/glancetable.htm). African American girls are at greater risk of early sexual behavior than Caucasian girls because they experience pubertal development earlier and may appear older and sexually desirable to older males (Herman-Gidden et al., 1997). The transition to adolescence is a time of risk-taking and experimentation, when behaviors are adopted that may persist into established adult behaviors affecting health into later life. The contextual transition from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school can enhance this risk. One of these risk behaviors is early for age sexual intercourse. The consequences of engaging in early and high-risk sexual behaviors include teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, particularly the greater risk of HIV/AIDS (Guttmacher, 1999; Satcher, 2001). Because of their earlier pubertal development, African American girls are more vulnerable to early initiation of sexual intercourse, putting them at higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy (Wyatt, 1994; Zabin, 1994; Doswell, 2000).

Research of the past two decades indicates that adolescent health-risk behaviors, such as sexual activity and substance misuse, are initiated during the middle school or junior high years, 6th-9th grades (Goodson, Evans & Edmonds, 1999). Smith and Udry (1985) found that in African American junior and senior high females, necking was the most frequently performed sexual behavior (62%), similar to their Caucasian counterparts; however, 40% of all students reported sexual intercourse as the second most frequent behavior. In a survey of 563 inner-city, public middle-school students, ages 11-14, Millstein et al. (1992) documented that 21% of the students (n=118) had experienced coitus at least once and that coitus occurred in 43% of the sexually active adolescents before age 11, with African-American adolescents reporting the highest incidence (50%). Stanton et al. (1999) found that 35% of African American youths (9-15 years; n=351) living in public housing reported having had sexual intercourse. An additional 20% of virginal youth reported they would most likely become sexually active within the next year (Stanton et al. …