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J Adolesc Health. 1996 Jan;18(1):10-9.

Longitudinal stability and predictability of sexual perceptions, intentions, and behaviors among early adolescent African-Americans.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore, 21201, USA.



To assess the stability and predictability of perceptions, intentions, and behaviors regarding intended sexual intercourse and condom use.


One hundred and nineteen African-American youth aged 9-15 years living in urban public housing provided information at baseline and 6 months later using a theory-based and culturally- and developmentally-tailored instrument assessing perceptions, intentions, and sexual behaviors.


Over the 6-month study interval, individual behaviors, intentions, and perceptions demonstrated considerable stability. Intentions regarding sexual intercourse in the next half-year were predictive of subsequent coitus among the entire cohort and among the subset who were virgins at baseline. Youth who thought it likely that they would be sexually-active in the next 6 months were at significantly elevated risk of doing so, compared to youth who were uncertain or thought coitus unlikely. However, intentions regarding future coitus among the subset of youth who were sexually-experienced at baseline were not predictive of future coital behavior.


These data suggest that social cognitive behavioral models that incorporate intentions and perceptions are appropriate as the theoretical basis for interventions targeting these young adolescents.


A longitudinal study conducted among low-income African-American early adolescents identified the salience of intentions and perceptions regarding sexual intercourse to subsequent behavior. The 119 boys and girls 9-15 years of age were recruited from public housing project recreation centers in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1993. Each youth completed the Youth Health Risk Behavioral Inventory; the instrument was re-administered 6 months later. At baseline, 71 respondents (60%) were virgins; 6 (9%) became sexually active during the 6-month study period. 27 (56%) of the 48 subjects who were sexually experienced at baseline engaged in intercourse during the ensuing 6 months. Overall, the predictiveness of intention to have sex in the next 6 months and actual behavior was very strong, especially among younger youth; nearly half of young people who thought it likely they would have sex did so, while only one-fifth of those who were uncertain and one-seventh of those who considered it unlikely had sex. Condom intention, on the other hand, was not predictive of subsequent use. Youth who engaged in sexual intercourse during the study period had more perceived peer support and internal rewards for sexual activity and perceived the sequelae of intercourse as less severe than their abstinent counterparts. Overall, these findings suggest that social cognitive behavioral models that incorporate intentions and perceptions should form the theoretical basis for interventions aimed at young adolescents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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