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Perceptions of early adolescent African-American girls concerning virginity and romantic relationships

Authors Childs GD, Reashanda White, Hataway C, Moneyham L , Gaioso V

Received 16 August 2012

Accepted for publication 29 September 2012

Published 25 October 2012 Volume 2012:2 Pages 55—65


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

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Gwendolyn D Childs, Reashanda White, Connie Hataway, Linda Moneyham, Vanessa Gaioso

University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Nursing, Birmingham, AL, USA

Background: Nationally, African-American girls aged 15–19 years have a higher incidence of Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis compared with White and Hispanic girls in the same age group. To address this epidemic of sexually transmitted infection, it is imperative to target African-American girls during early adolescence and before sexual debut. According to the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, approximately 7% of African-American girls initiate sex prior to the age of 13 years. The purpose of this descriptive qualitative study was to explore the perceptions of African-American girls aged 12–14 years about virginity and relationships, and how their perceptions influence their decision to engage in or abstain from sexual activity.
Methods: A convenience sample of 64 participants was recruited from community organizations in Alabama. Data were collected using individual interviews and focus groups. Individual interviews focused on values and beliefs about being a virgin, choosing boyfriends, and perceptions about good and bad relationships. Focus groups were held to validate findings from the individual interviews. Verbatim transcripts of audiotapes, observation notes, and demographic data were used as the primary data for analysis. Content analysis was used and interpretation of qualitative data to formulate meaningful categories, themes, and patterns. Qualitative research software (QSR N-Vivo®) was used to code and sort data into categories.
Results: The mean age of the study sample was 12.9 years. Of 64 participants, five reported having engaged in sexual activity. The mean age of sexual debut was 13 years. Common themes that emerged included respecting oneself, the ideal boyfriend, and characteristics of a romantic relationship.
Conclusion: Findings from this study suggest that the sexually transmitted infection prevention programs should build upon values related to virginity to delay sexual activity. Furthermore, the findings suggest a need for education about healthy relationships.

Keywords: sexual decision-making, sexual risk-taking, sexually transmitted infections, boyfriends

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