Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Predictors of Sixth Graders Engaging in Sexual Intercourse

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Predictors of Sixth Graders Engaging in Sexual Intercourse

Article excerpt

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-half (48.4%) of adolescents nationwide between grades 9 and 12 had sexual intercourse in their lifetime, and more than one-half (56.8%) used a condom during their last sexual encounter.[1] However, some adolescents still continue to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors. Risky sexual behavior can create serious problems for adolescents.[2] Therefore, it is important to understand the risk factors related to adolescent sexual behavior, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to establish prevention programs by schools and communities and to provide care for high-risk teens.[3]

One study[4] found that, across all race and gender groups, early initiation of sexual intercourse was associated significantly with an increased number of lifetime sexual partners and with an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. Additionally, those with a larger number of lifetime partners contracted more STDs.[5] Numerous studies attempted to determine the factors associated with adolescent sexual intercourse in an effort to intervene at an early age before unwanted consequences Occur.

Various factors ranging from demographics to self-efficacy have been shown to predict high-risk behaviors. Barone and colleagues[2] reported that demographic factors such as race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age act as a web of influences on high-risk sexual behaviors. As far as high-risk behaviors, contraceptive behavior has been shown to be negatively correlated with latent constructs of alcohol use, drug use, aggression, and delinquency.[6] Other factors such as carrying a weapon to school in the past month, getting into physical fights in the past year, initiating smoking cigarettes, and initiating alcohol use at a young age ([is less than] 13) were related to early initiation of sexual intercourse across all race and gender groups.[7] Low expectations for academic achievement, high tolerance of deviance, perceived environment factors including low compatibility between parents and friends, and behaviors such as low school achievement and high involvement in the use of illicit drugs were revealed as antecedents of adolescent sexual behavior.[8]

Constructs from theoretical models also have been shown to be predictors of high-risk sexual behavior by adolescents. Self-efficacy, a construct from the Social Cognitive Theory, has been one of the most widely studied constructs in relation to sexual behavior. DiClemente and colleagues[9] found that adolescents who had high self-efficacy to assert that condoms be used during sexual intercourse were almost 11 times more likely to be consistent condom users relative to their less-assertive peers. From their findings it was stated that self-efficacy to assert condom use was the most powerful determinant of consistent condom use. In a similar study[10] it was shown that low self-efficacy was the most strongly related factor to high-risk practices, suggesting that self-efficacy may be relevant for reducing high-risk behavior.

Because early initiation of sexual intercourse lengthens the period of risk for teen-age pregnancy as well as STD and HIV infection, a need exists to more clearly understand the factors associated with an adolescent's likelihood of engaging in sexual intercourse.[11] However, a dearth of research exists regarding sexual risk behaviors on adolescents of junior and high school levels. Therefore, this study explored factors related to sixth graders' sexual behavior. First, level of sexual behavior and sexual behavior intentions were examined. Second, health-related risk behaviors and constructs from Social Support and Social Cognitive theories were analyzed based on race and gender to determine their predictive value for sixth graders engaging in sexual intercourse.

METHODS

Subjects

Sixth-grade students in an urban, midwestern county were surveyed on their sexual behaviors and intentions, perceptions of others engaging in sexual intercourse, theoretical constructs related to sexual behavior, and risk factors associated with engaging in sexual intercourse. …

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