Adolescent Risky Sexual Behaviors
FYC 4801 Research Methods
Dr. E. Baugh
April 15, 2009
Adolescents are more susceptible to contracting HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and
being exposed to new cases of sexually transmitted diseases. The opposed reason for adolescents’
attitudes and behaviors to engaging in unsafe sexual encounters have yet to be determined. The
purpose for this research study is to examine adolescents’ attitudes and behaviors regarding their
sexual activity and recognize, if a comprehensive program can be accountable as an intervention
plan. To formulate a productive society, it is prevalent that we target this matter pertaining to
societies adolescents’ who are the next generation to regulate the world. According to the Center
for Disease Control (2007), “approximately 48% of high school student’s reported having sexual
intercourse, and 15% of high school students have had four or more sex partners during their life.quot;
Chronologically, adolescents are the next age group to reproduce and maintain order within society
whenever the current generation gets older. It is unhealthy to accumulate a productive society with
“Nearly half of the 19 million new cases of sexual transmitted infections (STIs) reported each year
occur among adolescents and young adults aged 15-24 years, highlighting the urgent need for
effective measures and intervention” (Buffardi et al., 2008). In fact, there are factors such as lack
of self esteem, lack of parental involvement and lack of proper knowledge of sexual literacy that
play an important role in adolescent’s risky sexual behaviors. Intervention programs are needed to
educate adolescents about engaging in such risky sexual behavior. For example, “The Carrera
program teaches teen’s sexual literacy, while emphasizing their potential to be successful and
happy through the pursuit of education and/or stable employment” (Philliber et al., 2002, p. 244).
In today’s society adolescents are affected by early initiation of sexual activity and are in need of a
comprehensive program like the Carrera Program to guide them through life effectively. Statistics
show “13-15% of American teens report having sexual intercourse before turning 15, the rate
climbs steeply there after” (Schofield et. al, 2008). Further research needs to be done targeting the
main factors why adolescents engage in such risky sexual behaviors. Also, adolescents engaging
in risky sexual behaviors should participate in comprehensive intervention programs such as the
Carrera Program, which needs to be widely developed.
In current research studies the integrative model of behavior change brings together several
theoretical constructs of behavior change; theories of reasoned action, behavior change, and
planned behavior. These models will be used to guide the evaluation of adolescent attitudes
toward risky sexual behavior (Bleakley et. al, 2009). According to the model of behavior change,
behavior is primarily determined by one’s intent to perform a specific behavior as a function of
how favorable they are regarding performing the behavior; perceptions by others regarding the
behavior and its perceived norms, and beliefs about one’s ability to perform the behavior in the
presence of barriers (Escobar-Chavez et. al, 2005). The Behavior Model of Change suggests a
behavioral belief that adolescents might be having sexual intercourse to increase intimacy with
their partner (Bleakley et. al, 2009). The model also examines the beliefs of theoretical reasoning
and empirical evidence, that intention behavior is the primary explanatory factor in adolescent
sexual behavior (Bleakley et. al, 2009).
According to Schofield, the increase in sexual activity amongst adolescents is related to the
onset of risky behavioral problems (Schofield et. al, 2008). For example, males encounter school
dilemmas and substance abuse, whereas females experience unwanted pregnancies and sexual
transmitted diseases (Schofield et. al, 2008). Adolescents’ risky sexual encounters render
consequences that affect society. These risky encounters affect society because there is an increase
in the number of new HIV/AIDS cases in adolescents as well as a rise in the number of STD’s. An
adolescent’s belief about specific behaviors such as peer behavior concerning vaginal sex, and the
unavailability of protection, correlates with their risk behavior and the behavior influence of peers,
which acts as a causation for such risky behavior (Arnett, 2007). In some cases, adolescents are
influenced by their peers to engage in risky behavior. Many have yet to develop an identity and
they feel the need to engage in these behaviors for social acceptance with out considering the
consequences. According to planned behavior theory adolescents plan to engage in sexual activity
because of curiosity.
There have been several studies that have applied the model of integrative behavior change
to study why adolescents are engaging in risky sexual activity (Bleakley et. al., 2009; Velicer &
Prochaska, 2008). It is evident that the model of behavior change is effective in evaluating
adolescents’ attitudes toward sexual risky behavior because the model postulates a pattern that
improves motivation (Schwarzer, 2008). Behavior change can occur if the five discrete stages are
followed: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. These stages
along with the integrative model of behavior change, normative beliefs, and motivation to comply
have a direct correlation on the success of reducing the amount of adolescents who engage in risky
behavior (Schwarzer, 2008).
Research over the last five years has been geared towards studying different factors
that play a vital role in adolescent’s risky sexual behavior. According to Arnett (2007), the
adolescent in their social environment is conducive to engaging in sexual intercourse, because it
brings students together frequently when social events are planned, which allows them to explore
and be free. Arnett (2007) gives great details about sexuality in late adolescents, the risky factors
for adolescents being exposed to sexually transmitted dieses, and explains the need for sex
educational courses. Although Arnett (2007) produce a small portion of information about sexually
transmitted diseases for adolescents the Center for Dieses Control and Prevention (2008) provides
information about different sexual transmitted dieses, the symptoms, and treatments, if treatable.
According to the Center for Disease Control (2008), “39% of sexually active high school students
did not use a condom during their last sexual intercourse”. Once adolescents partake in such risky
sexual activity they put themselves as well as others at great risk increasing their likelihood to
contract sexual transmitted diseases. In fact, “Forty-five percent report having sex before turning
17, and approximately 70% have had sex by the time they reach age 19” (Guttmacher Institute,
2006). According to the CCDC, “In 2006, an estimated 5,259 young people aged 13-24 were
diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, representing about 14% of the persons diagnosed that year” (Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention, 2008). Moreover “each year, there are approximately 19 million new
STD infections, and almost half of them are among youth aged 15 to 24. In 2002, 12% of all
pregnancies, or 757,000, occurred among adolescents aged 15-19 (Center for Chronic Disease
In the research studies of (Trotter & Alderson, 2007; Synovitz, Hebert et. al., 2005),
adolescents attitudes and behaviors were the main factor, researchers focused on adolescents
perspectives’ about contraceptives, identified the primary partner that makes the decision when it
comes to practicing safe sex, and studies was conducted on adolescents views about sexually
transmitted diseases. On the other hand, Schackman et al. (2008) wrote an informative article
about prevention interventions effectiveness in clinical settings based on HIV patients. This article
is useful for statistical data on HIV patients that do not know of their condition and continue to
spread the HIV/AIDS disease around. However, since the young population is more susceptible to
contracting these untreatable disease and infection with the lack of proper knowledge on sexual
literacy more comprehensive programs and the need of sex education is imperative.
Systematically, linking other youth programs that address possible advancements and
extracurricular activities can keep adolescents active and decrease the opportunity for youth to
explore risky behavior (Kalmuss, Davidson et. al, 2003). For example, “Evaluations results allow
the CAS- Carrera program to join the fewer than ten others that have shown an impact on teenage
pregnancy or birth rates” (Philliber et. al., 2002, p. 251). In fact, teens who are involved in the
Carrera Adolescence Program were “thirty percent more likely to graduate from high school or
obtain a G.E.D., forty percent less likely to have ever been pregnant and thirty seven percent more
likely to be enrolled in college” (Philliber et al., 2002, p. 245) Sexual education is another
intervention that researchers have evaluated in search of its effectiveness for adolescents who
partake in risky sexual activity. According to Lederman, Chan, and Roberts-Gray (2008), if society
can teach adolescents through Sex-Ed programs the correct way to approach, await, and understand
sexual intercourse we can prevent some unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexual transmitted
disease. To point out, Corbett et. al. (2006) examined the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors
regarding emergency contraception (EC) in men and women aged 18–21.This article is different
compared to the other reference material, it focused on an alternative method for unprotected sex.
Yet, it is still important for adolescents to learn proper methods to protect themselves if they chose
not to practice abstinence. This article provides important contraceptive methods to give
adolescents more of a variety to practice safe sexual techniques. All of the sources mentioned will
be helpful tools in the research process to determine adolescent’s attitudes and behaviors regarding
sexual intercourse. The research studies are deemed credible; they can be elaborated upon or
retouched by future researchers in the social science felid to reach a clear understanding of
adolescent’s attitudes and behaviors about sexual intercourse.
The variables associated with this research study are gender, race/age, self-esteem, parental
involvement, knowledge of proper sexual literacy, a comprehensive program and increased rates of
HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and new cases of sexually transmitted diseases. In this research
study, the independent variables are gender, race, lack of self-esteem, lack of parental involvement
and lack of proper knowledge on sexual literacy. Gender is a factor in the independent variables
because it is important to know exactly which sex- males or females play a vital role in this
research study. Researchers will use gender to distinguish which sex the intervention program will
be geared towards. Race/Age is a variable that helps the study distinguish which ethnic and age
group deserves more attentiveness and priority to the program. Lack of self-esteem, lack of
parental involvement and lack of proper knowledge on sexual literacy are variables that will be
manipulated through survey questions and interview, so researchers can identify if each variable
influence students’ sexual attitudes and behaviors. Also, this research study consists of an
intervening variable, a comprehensive program the Carrera program. The Carrera program
comprehensive approach concede with the parallel family and holistic approach, which is
“integrating sexuality within a comprehensive set of support tools that emphasizes education,
employment and all the other elements that make a young person whole.” (Carrera, 2006) Lack of
comprehensive programs can allow other negative factors to influence adolescent’s decision-
making skills. Such factors are poor self-esteem, lack of parental involvement and improper
knowledge about sexual literacy can all deter students’ ethical attitudes and behaviors about their
sexual relations. The dependent variable associated with this research study is increased rates of
HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and new cases of sexually transmitted diseases. This research
study explains the lack of Self-esteem, parental involvement and proper knowledge of sexual
literacy, intervened by the lack of comprehensive programs can identify increased rates of
HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and new cases of sexually transmitted disease, which are
variables that can be causally related.
In order to conduct a study on adolescence engaging in risky sexual activities the
researcher used a convince sample obtained from a local public high school, which happened to be
located in a poverty stricken environment. This school and its location were deemed fit to conduct
this particular research study. Approval for the research to be conducted was giving by the school
board, the principal and the parents of the local high school students. Once consent for the research
study was received the principal and the researcher randomly selected high school students
according to their student identification numbers. The first phase of the research study, participants
were administered a confidential basic survey. Only students engaging in risky sexual activity were
chosen to further continue in the research study.
In the second phase of the research study, all students were administered a survey, they
were asked about their perceptions of sex in school and their sexual intercourse practices.
Participants taking the survey were asked their gender, age, and race which help to determine the
particular people who were engage in risky sexual activity. Participants were asked if their activity
has affected their lives negatively for example in school or at home, with family, peers, and
friends. The researcher wanted to know what each student’s outlook was when engaging in risky
During the interviews participants were asked their self esteem level and their knowledge
about sexual literacy. According to Abbot-Chapman (2008, p. 611) “Findings reveal that the wider
the range of social support, including parents, family and friends the less likely are teenagers to
participate in risky behaviors such as sexual activity.” Based on this finding, researcher asked
questions concerning the students social support asking them how close they where to family and
friends before ever partaking in any sexual activities. Here are some of the survey questions used
in the study:
1a. Have you ever engaged in risky sexual activity?
1b. If yes how frequently do you engage in such activity
c. About every 6 months
d. One time
2. How stable are you in making decisions about engaging in sexual intercourse?
a. I depend on my friends to make my sexual related decisions
b. It depends on how my sexual partner sees me.
c. I can make my own decisions not relying on anyone else
d. I am not sexually active, so I make an abstinence decision
3. What is your relationship like with your Parent/Guardian? Explain
4. How frequently do you engage in the following sexual behaviors? Please record your response
by rating 4 meaning very frequently to 1 meaning you do not participate in such activities.
Unprotected Sexual 4 3 2 1
Oral Sex 4 3 2 1
Sex under the influence 4 3 2 1
Sex with many partners 4 3 2 1
Once the responses from the survey and the interview were collected, the data was
transcribed and examined. Based on the results from the survey and the interview, the researcher
will be able to make inferences and determine a correlation between students who engage in risky
sexual activity and the lifestyle they live. As for the results, the researcher hopes to provide a
comprehensive intervention program to determine if it has an effect on adolescence that engage in
risky sexual behaviors.
Researchers in this study will use the results from the adolescent surveys to identify if lack
of self esteem, lack of parental involvement, lack of sexual literacy, comprehensive programs
contribute to increase numbers of adolescents contracting HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and
sexual transmitted diseases. Data will be entered into the Statistical Packaging for the Social
Science (SPSS) database. The information will go through a coding procedure to input females,
males, ages 13-21, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, White Americans, Latinos, Asian
Americans and Native Americans, different self esteem levels, parental involvement and sexual
literacy. Once results were analyzed a liner relationship was recognized on a scatter gram for low
self-esteem and minimum parental involvement. The two bivariates, low self esteem and parental
involvement varied together in a relation, representing a covariance relationship. This relationship
provide evidence to the researchers that majority of sexual active adolescents have self esteem
issues and minimum parental involvement. A control group consisted of adolescents that did not
participate in a comprehensive program and the experimental group consisted of students that
participated in a comprehensive program. After the survey and interview data was collected, the
experimental groups were formulated and treatment was given, a follow up case study was
completed on each experimental group. Once all data was analyzed, researchers inferred that the
comprehensive program is indeed an effective intervention program. “The Carrera Program
statistics show quot;Females- 40% are less likely to have ever been pregnant, 50% are less likely to
have ever given birth, more than twice as likely to be using Depo-Provera, a hormonal
contraceptive.” (Philliber et al., 2002, p. 250) To sum it up, low self-esteem and minimum parental
involvement contributed to adolescents engaging in risky sexual behavior, yet with the help of a
comprehensive program as an intervention there is hope for society’s adolescents to become future
leaders or productive members of society.
This research study is a very important addition to the existing literature of adolescence
engaging in risky sexual behaviors. It was the first study conducted using an experimental group
with a comprehensive approach program. After conducting research on adolescence engaging in
risky sexual activity this study helped aid in decreasing the likely-hood of adolescence engaging in
risky sexual behavior. Research found the comprehensive approach works best and it will help
contribute positive knowledge to the existing research on adolescences risky sexual behaviors.
Previous research only highlighted the importance and the demand of sexual education courses
with inferences on safe sex practices. This study however, researches a comprehensive approach,
sexual literacy, self-esteem, and parental involvement which all showed an impact on why
adolescence may engage in risky sexual behaviors.
Future researchers should address the issue about the environment adolescence are
consumed to and the effect of growing up in low SES or single parent headed households. Other
studies can also expand on the sexual literacy, self-esteem, and parental involvement factor to
describe the effects, attitudes of adolescents and their behavior patterns pertaining to their sexual
relations. Also, future researchers can expound on the effect of engaging in risky sexual activity
during adolescence and the effect it can have in emerging adulthood and adulthood relating the
findings to the functioning of society. This research is important to existing and future sexual
prevention programs. This information may be vital to parents of adolescence and health school
officials. Other researchers should collect and conduct studies to expound upon this research and
future studies. Researchers should elaborate on the behavior, the comprehensive approach and the
success of other programs that have managed to help decrease adolescence risky sexual behaviors.
The researcher plans to submit this article to the Journal of Adolescent Health.
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