Helpful Adolescent Sex Communication: Influential Communication Sources and Associations with Contraceptive Use and Sexual Enjoyment
Although it is important for researchers to focus on preventative behaviors (e.g. contraceptive use) that prevent negative outcomes of adolescent sexual behavior, it is also important to focus on positive aspects of adolescent sexuality. The exploration of sexuality and sexual behaviors during adolescence is seen as a key developmental task, and these developmental experiences set the stage for sexual well-being into adulthood. Little research exists on adolescent enjoyment and pain during sexual experiences, and even less research exists on how adolescent sexual communication may be associated with sexual enjoyment and pain. Adolescent communication about sex has the potential to influence contraceptive behaviors and sexual enjoyment for adolescents. Trusted members of an adolescent’s network may provide them with information about sexual behaviors, teach them about safe sexual practices and the wide range of sexual interests and behaviors, and guide them in making good decisions about these behaviors and relationships. Communication about sex with parents, siblings, doctors, and teachers, may arguably have the most influence on adolescents during this developmental phase. In this dissertation, I explore whether more recent helpful communication about sex, condoms, and birth control with parents, siblings, doctors, and teachers can be represented by a single latent construct (“helpful adolescent sex communication with influential others”). I then explore whether helpful communication about sex with influential others is associated with contraceptive and sexual enjoyment outcomes. Using confirmatory factor analysis, I examined the factor analytic structure of four observed helpful adolescent sex communication variables (communication with parents, siblings, doctors, and teachers). The proposed single factor model fit the data well, and communication about sex, condoms, and birth control with parents, siblings, doctors, and teachers contribute to a single construct of adolescent sex communication with influential members of the adolescents’ network. Global and component model fit corroborated that this was an excellent fitting model. I used structural equation modeling to examine the associations between latent helpful adolescent sex communication and the outcomes of consistency of condom use and choice of dual contraceptive methods, as well as outcomes of sexual arousal, sexual pleasure, orgasm occurrence, and pain during most recent sexual encounter. I found that latent helpful adolescent sex communication was not significantly associated with consistency of condom use or choice of dual contraceptive methods. Latent helpful adolescent sex communication was not significantly associated with sexual arousal, pleasure, orgasm occurrence, or pain during most recent sexual encounter. By examining associations with the observed sex communication variables individually (communication with parents, with siblings, with doctors, and with teachers) and enjoyment outcomes, I found that sex communication with siblings significantly predicted sexual pleasure and orgasm occurrence, such that more recent helpful conversations about sex, condoms, or birth control were associated with more pleasure and a higher likelihood of orgasm occurrence at last sexual encounter. Communication about sex with parents and with teachers significantly predicted pain during last sexual encounter. More recent helpful sex conversations with parents was associated with less pain during last sexual encounter, whereas more recent helpful sex conversations with teachers was associated with more pain during last sexual encounter. I also examined associations of observed sex communication variables with consistency of condom use and contraceptive choice, and found no such associations. Potentially due to a smaller than expected sample and several other limitations, I found no associations of helpful adolescent sex communication with contraceptive outcomes. More research is warranted on adolescent sex communication and these outcomes, as well as other contraceptive use outcomes, STI acquisition, and unintended pregnancy. Positive associations of sex communication with siblings and enjoyment outcomes may indicate that sex conversations with siblings may be qualitatively different than conversations with parents, doctors, or teachers. Findings pertaining to teacher and parent communication could possibly indicate that adolescents may choose a teacher over a parent if they fear disciplinary consequences for engaging in sexual behaviors or are just too embarrassed to discuss the topic with a parent. Researchers should further explore one-on-one sex communication with a teacher to tease out how this relationship may differ from others. These findings are a first step in understanding latent modeling in the realm of adolescent sex communication, as well as examining associations with contraceptive outcomes and sexual enjoyment. It is vital that researchers continue to study adolescent sex communication in relation to contraception and positive adolescent sexuality. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.)
Shields, Purdue University.
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