Teen Perceptions of Sexual Activity, Decision-Making, and the Promotion of Safe Sexual Practices: A Focus Group Study

Monday, 9 November 2015: 3:15 PM

Judith Herrman, PhD, MS, BSN, RN, ANEF, FAAN
School of Nursing, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA

Purpose: This study is designed to explore teens’ perceptions of sexual activity, decision-making, and means to promote safe sexual practices in youth.  Teens’ thoughts on the supports and challenges associated with sexual decision-making and safe sexual behavior provide the framework for examining this critical area of teen health.

Background: Recent research revealed that teens in the state of study report some of the highest rates of sexual activity and pregnancy in the nation.  Concerned advocates wonder about the factors behind these startling data and posit that youth-generated interventions are needed to ensure safe sexual practices.  The thoughts of teens are unknown and validate the current study.

Methods:  This qualitative, descriptive study uses focus groups to gather teens’ perceptions. Students, ages 14-17 years, were recruited from school-based health centers (SBHCs) and participated in nine focus groups. SBHC staff recruited participants, obtained consents, signed students up for focus groups, and assisted with scheduling focus groups in private rooms at the SBHC.  The Focus Group Interview Guide, based on the supports and challenges model and previous research, was used in the semi-structured interviews.  Focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim.  Observational notes recorded non-verbal aspects of the focus groups.  Analysis included both template analysis, using the Focus Group Interview Guide and thematic analysis assessing for emergent and prominent themes. 

Results:  Iterative analysis yielded support and challenge themes that may be used to inform adult messages, programs, and policies designed to promote healthy teen sexual behavior. 

Conclusions and implications:  Nurses hold pivotal roles in fostering responsible and safe sexual practices in youth.  Using teen perceptions to guide interventions related to safe sexual practices ensures meaningful, teen-focused, and developmentally appropriate strategies to enhance safe sexual practices.