Young adolescents' intention to engage in pre-sexual activities: an exploratory study
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Although adolescent pregnancy rates in the United States have decreased over the last decade or so, these rates remain higher than any other industrialized nation. This necessitates a better understanding of the factors implicated in adolescent sexual risktaking. Many studies have examined the influence of attitudes, parents and peers on sexual behavior, these studies however, have not examined the impact of these factors on the behavioral intentions of adolescents younger than 12 years old. In order to address this gap, data collected from 142 students using the Young Adolescent Questionnaire was examined. The overall objective was to examine attitudes, social norms and pubertal timing (for girls) on intentions to engage in a specific pre-sexual activity – kissing on the mouth with a boy/girl you really like within the next year. Modified constructs from the Theory of Reasoned Action and behavior patterns from The Typology of Young Adolescent Pre- sexual Experience were measured by variables within the questionnaire. The theoretical construct of intention from the Theory of Reasoned Action was used to distinguish behavior patterns in the typology. Individuals were classified as delayers or anticipators depending on their intention to kiss or not to kiss on the mouth. Of the sample, 71.8% were anticipators and 28.2% were delayers. Another purpose of the study was to examine the impact of each predictor on behavioral intention status as well as to determine the strongest predictor. MANOVA revealed that anticipators and delayers had different attitudes and peer norms. The barrier measure (reasons given by students for not kissing on the mouth), had a significant effect on behavioral intention status. Logistic regression revealed five predictors of behavior intention status – attitudes, parents’ standards, peer norm, influencers (reasons given for kissing on the mouth) and previous experience, with influencers being the strongest predictor. Gender and ethnicity were not found to be significant predictors of behavioral intention status. However, gender did have a significant effect on peer norms and parents’ standards. Girls who had experienced their first menstrual period were more likely to be classified as anticipators than girls who had not done so. This research was able to gain insight into the attitudes and social norms of young delayers and anticipators. Prevention programs incorporating the findings of this research will more effectively address the health needs of young adolescents.