Understanding sexual abstinence among high school students

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Grozier, Michelle Rene

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Politicians, scientists, and the general public all agree that adolescent sexuality has become a crisis in the United States. The 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study reports that 46.8% of high school students have had sex and approximately 1 in 5 high school seniors reporting 4 or more sexual partners. Additionally, adolescents make up an estimated 25% of newly reported cases of STDs. Unfortunately, credible research on why sexually abstinent adolescents remain abstinent is minimal. The purpose of this study was to examine the differences between sexually active and sexually abstinent adolescents across a range of psychosocial factors. Selfefficacy to abstain, partner negotiation, condom use/negotiation, social norms, attitudes towards sex and condoms, beliefs about sex and condoms, knowledge, social support for condoms and sex, alcohol consumption, and HIV acquaintances. In addition, gender differences were explored for given reasons for abstinence. These variables included morals, norms, fears, waiting for the right person, waiting until older, embarrassment of having sex, fear of pain, and not having a significant other. Using cross sectional data collected from Safer Choices Time 3 measurement period during 1997. Results indicated the differences between abstinent and sexually active adolescents across the range of psychosocial variables were weak. Significant differences between abstinent males and females were noted for reasons for being sexually abstinent. Gender differences should be addressed in sex education programs.


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