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J Pediatr Health Care. 2013 Sep-Oct;27(5):342-50. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2012.02.010. Epub 2012 Apr 21.

Understanding motivations for abstinence among adolescent young women: insights into effective sexual risk reduction strategies.

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  • 1School of Nursing, MGH Institute of Health Professions, Boston, MA, USA.



Pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of adolescent women. Abstinence, when practiced, provides the most effective means of preventing these problems, yet the perspective of abstinent young women is not well understood. The purpose of this investigation was to characterize female adolescents' motivations for abstinence.


As part of a larger, cross-sectional quantitative study investigating predictors of HIV risk reduction behaviors, qualitative responses from study participants who never had intercourse were analyzed in a consensus-based process using content analysis and frequency counts. An urban primary care site in a tertiary care center served as the setting, with adolescent young women ages 15-19 years included in the sample.


Five broad topic categories emerged from the data that characterized motivations for abstinence in this sample: personal readiness, fear, beliefs and values, partner worthiness, and lack of opportunity.


A better understanding of the motivations for abstinence may serve to guide the development of interventions to delay intercourse.

Copyright © 2013 National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.


Abstinence; HIV prevention; STI prevention; adolescent young women; cultural diversity; pregnancy prevention

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