Psychosocial and Behavioral Correlates of Refusing Unwanted Sex Among African-American Adolescent Females
February 1, 2002
The January issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health features a study that examines the psychosocial and behavioral aspects of refusing unwanted sexual intercourse among African-American adolescent females.
Data were collected from self-administered questionnaires and structured interviews with a clinic- and school-based sample of 522 African-American adolescent females ages 14 to 18 years of age in Birmingham, AL.
To be eligible for the study adolescents needed to be African-American females, between the ages 14 and 18, sexually active in the previous 6 months, and provide written consent.
Researchers collected data regarding demographics, sexual behaviors, communication with parents, and psychosocial factors relevant to romantic and sexual partnerships.
The study had various measures to help determine if and how African-American adolescent females were able to refuse unwanted sexual intercourse.
To determine power dynamics, measures included economic dependence on ones partner, partners age (2 years older vs. similar age or younger), partner communication self-efficacy, safer sex self-efficacy, and beliefs about male control in relationships.
Emotional dynamics were measured through relationship length and fear of partner reaction to condom negotiation.
To measure family and peer influences, researchers assessed parental communication about sexual issues in the previous 6 months, along with family support.
Self perceptions were determined by measuring body image, ethnic identity, and self esteem.
To determine perceived risks, researchers measured how often in the 6 months prior to assessment adolescents were worried they were or would become infected with HIV, an STD, or become pregnant.
Refusal of unwanted sex was measured with a single item in the self-administered questionnaire. Participants were asked to complete the following sentence: During the past 6 months, when a guy wanted to have sex and I didnt I... Responses participants were able to choose ranged from  Never said no to  Always said no. An additional category allowed participants to indicate that this had never happened to them.
* Data not available for those respondents who may have previously been pregnant.
Typical Birth Control Use
* Data not available to determine frequency of condom use and whether or not condoms were used with another method of birth control.
Frequency of Sexual Intercourse in Past 6 Months
Always Refused Unwanted Sex
The study also found that self-efficacy to negotiate safer sex is associated with consistent refusal of unwanted sex. None of the other indicators of power dynamics in the present study were associated with refusing unwanted sex.
The authors found that adolescents who were less concerned about partners emotional reactions to condom negotiation were more likely to refuse unwanted sex.
The authors suggest that consistent refusal of unwanted sex may be an indicator of the ability to resist male control in sexual relationships. This ability may be a tool that adolescents can bring to their sexual relationships to help them avoid a variety of unwanted, and/or risky, sexual behaviors. Adolescent sexual health promotion efforts may benefit from programs tailored to increase the use of sexual refusal as an STD/HIV-protective strategy.
For more information: C. Sionean, et al., Psychosocial and Behavioral Correlates of Refusing Unwanted Sex Among African-American Adolescent Females, Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 55-63.
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.