Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Gender Equity Predicts Condom Use among Adolescent and Young Adult Parents in Toronto, Canada

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Gender Equity Predicts Condom Use among Adolescent and Young Adult Parents in Toronto, Canada

Article excerpt

Adolescents and young adults have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) than any other age cohort in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The sub-population of young parents is at even higher risk for acquiring STIs than the general population of adolescents and young adults. The purpose of this study was to determine whether and how co-parenting relationship functioning and gender equitable attitudes were associated with condom use among adolescent and young adult parents. We conducted a cross-sectional survey with 102 non-married adolescent and young adult parents in Toronto. Study participants used iPads to self-administer the co-parenting relationship scale, gender equitable men scale, and a sexual behaviour battery regarding their condom use during the last episode of sexual intercourse (including vaginal and anal). Logistic regression was used to determine whether scale scores predicted condom use at last intercourse, adjusting for age and sex. f-tests were performed to assess group mean differences in gender equitable attitudes and co-parenting relationship functioning between condom users and nonusers and between mothers and fathers. We observed that co-parenting relationship functioning was not associated with condom use behaviours. Instead, gender equitable attitudes predicted condom use in the overall sample (AOR = 1.13; 95% Cl 1.03, 1.25, p < 0.05). Fathers who used condoms at last intercourse had higher gender equitable attitude scores than fathers who did not use condoms (M = 58 vs. 53, p = 0.02). Mothers' gender equitable attitude scores were not associated with condom use behaviours. Attitudes that support gender equity attitudes predict condom use among young parents, particularly among young fathers. Sexual risk reduction programs targeting young parents may benefit from incorporating components that promote gender equity norms.

KEY WORDS: gender equity, condom use, parents, adolescent, young adults, mother, father

INTRODUCTION

Overall, the incidence and prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Canada are highest among adolescents and young adults (Jayaraman, Totten, Perrin, Fang, & Remes, 2010; PHAC, 2007). Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea among adolescent girls (ages 15-19) remain higher than any other age-specific gender group, while the highest rates among males are among those aged 20-24. Researchers have also found that adolescent maternity was associated with unprotected sex (Ickovics, Niccolai, Lewis, Kershaw, & Ethier, 2003). Studies of human immunodeficiency (HIV)/STI risk behaviours among adolescent mothers identified the father of the child ("baby daddy") as a specific partner type with a singular negative influence on condom use (Nelson, Morrison-Beedy, Kearney, & Dozier, 2011a, 2011b). While a small percentage of young single parents commit to being in long-term relationships, most adolescents do not remain (or become) formal couples (Ryan, Tolani, & Brooks-Gunn, 2009). Recent studies corroborate clinical practice observations that many young mothers are "not together" with the biological fathers of their children. Nonetheless, many still maintain some frequency of sexual contact with their children's fathers (Kershaw et ah, 2010).

Co-parenting is distinct from the romantic or sexual aspects of the relationships between young single parents and refers to how parents relate to one another in roles as stewards and/or custodians of their shared children (Feinberg, 2003). Instability or fragility in the co-parenting relationship has STI/HIV-prevention implications since adolescent mothers reported using high-risk sex strategies to foster relational ties between them and their children's fathers (Nelson, Morrison-Beedy, Kearney, & Dozier, 2012). Yet, there has been a dearth of research focusing on developing evidence-based HIV prevention intervention models in Canada that integrate sexual health and co-parenting promotion--especially one that includes components designed to support interpersonal relations between young parents. …

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