PROVIDENCE – A new study conducted at the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center and three other institutions has found that teens who do not use condoms often believe they would reduce sexual pleasure and that their partner would not approve of condom use.
About one in four teens in the United States will contract a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and failure to use condoms is one of the major contributing factors, experts believe.
For the study, researchers surveyed more than 1,400 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 21 who had unprotected sex in the previous 90 days. The study was conducted in Atlanta, Miami and Providence. The findings appear in the September/October issue of Public Health Reports.
“It’s clear that we have to address these attitudes, fears and concerns that many teens have regarding condom use, if we want to reduce their risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection,” saids lead author Dr. Larry K. Brown, of the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center, in a news release. “The good news is that these attitudes may be easily influenced and changed through clinical and community-based interventions.”
Nearly two-thirds of adolescents who were surveyed had not used a condom the last time they had sex. Participants also reported an average of two partners and about 15 incidents of unprotected sexual activity within the 90-day period. In addition to concerns about reduced sexual pleasure and partner disapproval, teens who did not use condoms were also less likely to discuss condom use with their partners. These findings held true across racial/ethnic groups, gender and geographic locations.
The authors recommended that clinicians carefully monitor and routinely assess the sexual risk behaviors of adolescents and address common attitudes and concerns by, for example, teaching teens how to effectively and respectfully discuss condoms with their partners.
“These kinds of interventions, including community-based programs, can play a major role in increasing condom use, particularly among high-risk adolescents, and promote their sexual health,” said Brown, who is also a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
The study was sponsored by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration and was conducted with the support of the Project SHIELD Study Group, a federally funded prevention/intervention program aimed at developing and testing ways to encourage and enable behavior change among adolescents/young adults and women.
Bradley Hospital is a member of the nonprofit Lifespan health care system, along with The Miriam, Newport and Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s hospitals. To learn more, visit www.lifespan.org/bradley.