Feelings of Invulnerability and Adolescent Sexual Activity

Thursday, 10 July 2008: 10:30 AM
Sherry M. Knoppers, PhD, RN , Nursing, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Rapids, MI

Learning Objective 1: identify correlates to adolescent sexual activity.

Learning Objective 2: verbalize the importance of interventions targeting multiple risk factors in youth to decrease high-risk behaviors.

Adolescent sexual activity is a topic of concern. Annually almost 9.5 million new sexually transmitted infections (STI's) occur among American young people (Weinstock, Berman, & Cates, 2004) and close to one million American teens become pregnant (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001). Youth who abstain from sexual activity eliminate the risk of contracting an STI while avoiding pregnancy and possible emotional consequences. Yet, even with successful intervention programs, not all youth enjoy the desired outcome. They seem to feel invulnerable to the potential consequences. Are adolescents with higher levels of invulnerability more likely to engage in sexual activity? The design of this study was a cross-sectional survey, the purpose of which was to examine the relationship between perceived invulnerability to pregnancy and STD's and sexual activity. Sixty-seven usable surveys were completed by youth taking Life Skills classes in the Midwestern United States. A Spearman's rho was used to look at the correlation between perceived invulnerability and sexual activity, and logistic regression was used to look at the relationship between perceived invulnerability and other predictors of sexual activity. While no relationship was found between feelings of invulnerability and sexual activity even when controlling for other predictors of sexual activity, perceived invulnerability had some impact on the sexual behavior of youth with multiple risk factors and fewer protective factors. The latter result offers support for the idea that perceived invulnerability impacts adolescent sexual activity in high-risk youth. It also reinforces the importance of interventions aimed at decreasing multiple risk factors.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2001). Halfway there: A prescription for continued progress in preventing teen pregnancy. Washington, DC: Author.

Weinstock, H., Berman, S., and Cates, W. Jr. (2000). Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: incidence and prevalence estimates. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2004, 36(1): 6-10.