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Medical News

Having Sex and Condom Use: Potential Risks and Benefits Reported by Young, Sexually Inexperienced Adolescents

November 2, 2006

What do young adolescents identify as the potential positive and negative outcomes of having sex, using a condom or not using a condom? The researchers in the current study set out to answer this question.

The subjects of the study were 418 ethnically diverse ninth-graders, 86 percent of whom reported never having had sex. Written surveys were used to collect the students' responses to scenarios involving two adolescents who had sex. The students were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group read a scenario in which a condom was used; the other read a scenario in which no condom was used.

All the students were asked to list the risks and benefits of having sex. Depending on the scenario read, participants were asked to list the risks and benefits of using or not using a condom. Their responses were coded thematically. The percentages of responses were compared using chi-square analysis in total and by gender.

Gender differences emerged across questions. The students spontaneously identified a range of health and psychological risks and benefits to having sex with or without a condom. Their answers evidenced a strong aversion to pregnancy. Commonly mentioned were the risks of HIV/STDs as well as condom malfunction. Condom use benefits cited included preventing pregnancy and STDs. The benefits of having sex and not using condoms the students listed included improving the relationship, fun and pleasure.

The researchers concluded, "Communication with adolescents regarding safe sexual activity could benefit from widening the communication from a focus on health risks to include discussion of the psychosocial risks and benefits that adolescents themselves think about with respect to sex and condom use."

Back to other news for November 2, 2006

Adapted from:
Journal of Adolescent Health
10.2006; Vol. 39; No. 4: P. 588-595; Lea E. Widdice, M.D.; Jodi L. Cornell, M.S.W., M.A.; Wendra Liang; Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher, Ph.D.

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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