Why Teens Don’t Use Condoms

A scary statistic to think about is that one out of every four United States teenagers will contract an STD (sexually transmitted disease). This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers believe that one reason for this epidemic is the reluctance of many teens to use condoms on a regular basis or in a consistent manner. A new study may help us understand the reasons why teens fail to use condoms.

Unprotected Sex

This study hails from researchers at the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center and three other institutions. The researchers studied more than 1,400 teens and young adults between the ages of 15-21. All of the participants had engaged in sex without protection during the previous 3 months.

The researchers discovered that those teens who decided to do without condoms tended to believe that the protective sheaths would take away from their sexual pleasure. A second factor was discovered: teens that had sex without condoms were afraid their partners would frown on the idea of condom use. The findings of this study were published in the September/October 2008 issue of Public Health Reports.

Sexual Attitudes

Lead author of this study, Larry K. Brown, MD, from the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center commented, “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. The good news is that these attitudes may be easily influenced and changed through clinical and community-based interventions.”

The participants in this study came from three cities: Providence, Miami, and Atlanta. The teens were surveyed through a computer-assisted audio interview. In this manner, researchers were able to compile information regarding risky sexual behavior among the participants, including how often condoms were used within the 90 days prior to the study’s inception.

Condom Attitudes

The teens were questioned as to their feelings and thoughts about condoms and how they broached the subject of condom use with their partners. The participants included 797 females as well as 613 males. Around half of the teens surveyed were African American, 24% were Hispanic, and 19% white.

Close to two-thirds of the adolescents had not used a condom the last time they’d engaged in sex. The average participant had engaged in sex with two partners and had indulged in sex without a condom on around 15 separate occasions during the past 90 days.

In general, the teens worried about lessened sexual pleasure, the disapproval of their partners and tended not to talk about condom use with their sexual partners. This was true regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or geographical location.

Routine Assessments

The authors have made recommendations to clinicians on the basis of the findings of this study. The most important recommendation is that clinicians take a closer look and make routine assessments of the sexual practices of their adolescent patients. In addition, clinicians need to speak to teens about how they feel in regard to using condoms and address any concerns they may have about condom use.

Clinicians can teach adolescents under their care how they might talk to their partners about using condoms and how to shop for condoms that fit well and feel comfortable. However, condoms are not 100% effective, so even better than condom use is practicing abstinence until one is in a monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.  Brown, who is also a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University’s The Warren Alpert Medical School believes that this type of intervention by clinicians or through community programs can go a long way toward promoting the sexual health of high-risk teens.

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