Exploring Communal and Gendered Influences on Sexual Health Practices

Exploring Communal and Gendered Influences on Sexual Health Practices poster

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Research Authorship:

Courtney Olds, Luke Lovelady, Emery Hanson, Elizabeth R. Brown

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Elizabeth R. Brown | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology

Abstract:

In the U.S., 10% of female college students who have an unplanned pregnancy, drop out (UPFO, 2016). Additionally, young adults (15-24) account for half of the new STI’s (CDC, 2017). Previous research has established communal (other-oriented) motivation is positively associated with factors that predict safe sex practices (e.g., condom use intentions) (Phillips et al., 2019). Conversely, gender norms (societal expectations affiliated with gender) are negatively associated with factors that predict safe sex practices (e.g., partner communication and self-efficacy). For instance, although, women who report higher self-efficacy are more likely to engage in partner communication, women who rely on traditional gender norms report diminished self-efficacy and in turn, partner communication (Bertens et al., 2008; Impett et al., 2006). While gender norms seemingly diminish self-efficacy among women, women also feel that pregnancy prevention is primarily their responsibility, as compared to men. (Fantasia et al., 2014; Huber & Eresek, 2011). We hypothesized that communal motivation and gender norms would interact to predict perceptions of responsibility and self-efficacy, which in turn would predict partner communication, and ultimately safe sex practices. We also expected that these interactions would differ based on participant gender. We surveyed approximately 260 college-aged participants from a North Florida university. We anticipate that communal motivation will be positively associated with safe sex practices, while we anticipate that gender norms will be more negatively associated with safe sex practices. Our findings will illuminate critical factors associated with sexual health practices that will supplement how to approach sexual health education in the future.

Risky sexual practices are a public health concern for college-aged individuals in the US. Ten percent of college women who have an unplanned pregnancy drop out (UPFO, 2016).

Of the 20 million new STDs in the US, young adults (15 to 24) account for half of the occurrences (CDC,2017).

Previous research has established sexual communal (other-oriented) motivation is positively associated with safe sex practices, like condom use intentions (Phillips, et al., 2019).

Conversely, gender norms (societal expectations affiliated with gender) are negatively associated with factors that predict safe sex practices such as partner communication and self-efficacy.

For instance, women who report higher self-efficacy are more likely to engage in partner communication, while women who rely on traditional gender norms report diminished self-efficacy and in turn, partner communication (Bertens et al., 2008; Impett et al., 2006).

While gender norms diminish self-efficacy in women, they commonly feel that pregnancy is their primary responsibility as compared to men (Fantasia et al., 2014; Huber and Eresek, 2011).

Although there is an understanding of factors that relate to sexual health practices, there is less knowledge on how these factors interact to predict sexual health practices.

We hypothesized that communal motivation and gender norms would interact to predict perceptions of responsibility and self-efficacy, which would predict partner communication, and ultimately safe sex practices.

Further, that reliance on gender norms would be negatively associated with factors that contribute to safe sex practices, while communal motivation would be positively associated with factors that contribute to safe sex practices.

We also expected these relationships would differ based on participant gender.

We recruited over 200 participants (consisting of approximately 86% women and 13% men) from the University of North Florida and measured their reliance on gender norms, communal motivation, and perceptions of responsibility (e.g. in your opinion, who should be responsible for “taking care” of birth control and who ends up being responsible for birth control?).

We measured their condom use self-efficacy, specifically related to fear of suggesting a condom because their partner will believe they have an STD for doing so and fear of their partner rejecting them for doing so.

Then, we measured partner communication, specifically related to discussing STD and pregnancy risks with their partner along with likeliness to deceive partner to use a condom.

Finally, we measured condom use intentions on when, where, and how to use a condom.

Overall, consistent with our hypothesis and previous literature, we saw that gender norms significantly decreased self-efficacy specifically related to fear of their partner presuming they had an STD or their partner rejecting them for suggesting condom use.

Further, we saw that fear of partner presuming they had an STD for suggesting a condom, was negatively associated with discussing pregnancy risk with their partner.

Now I would like to highlight some of the differences we found in the results based on participant gender.

For men, we saw that decreased self-efficacy related to fearing their partner would presume that they had an STD for suggesting a condom was positively associated with the likeliness of deceiving their partner to use a condom.

We also found that for men, discussing pregnancy risk was positively associated with safe sex practices, while we did not find the same effect for discussing STD risk.

For women, we saw that consistent with previous literature, reliance on gender norms was positively associated with responses that women should be responsible for birth control.

Among women, we also saw that communal motivation was negatively associated with lowered self-efficacy related to fear of their partner presuming they have an STD for suggesting condom use.

Further, we saw that responses that women should be responsible for birth control was negatively associated with discussing pregnancy risk with their partner, while responses that women end up being responsible for birth control was negatively associated to deceiving their partner to use a condom.

Lastly, that discussing STD and pregnancy risks with their partner was positively associated with safe sex practices for women.

Generally, our findings were consistent with our hypotheses. Gender norms were more negatively associated with factors that predict safe sex practices (e.g., self-efficacy), while communal motivations were more positively associated to factors that predict safe sex practices.

Likewise, the effects differed based on gender.
We recognize that there are some limitations to our study.
For example, our sample was limited in terms of gender, race, sexuality, and age.

The sample consisted mainly of college-aged white women and because of the study’s focus on pregnancy prevention, the sample was predominantly heterosexual.

We would like to include a more diverse sample in the future so that our results can be more representative of the general population.

We also are hoping to include all sexual orientations in the future so that we can study safe sexual practices for people of all sexual orientation.

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