2012. 8 p.
Health Education and Behavior, Volume 39, Number 3; 2012
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This study modeled primary abstinence and age at first sex in a cross-sectional sample of Ghanaian youth ages 17 to 22 years. The aim was to examine how reproductive knowledge and social cognitive factors jointly affect the choice to initiate sex. Among males, the authors found that reproductive knowledge is negatively associated with abstinence. Its negative association, however, is moderated by the extent of adult support a respondent receives. Among females, reproductive knowledge is positively associated with abstinence. Its positive association is moderated by the extent of household communication about sex. Correspondingly, when age at first sex is modeled, knowledge is a negative predictor among females. Its effects are mediated by household communication about sex. A third social cognitive variable, perceived permissive peer attitudes about sex, is not associated with knowledge but is a protective factor for sexual initiation for both sexes. Though causal direction cannot be established, the results suggest that cognition affects sexual initiation both directly and through complex social mechanisms. The evidence provides theoretical support for comprehensive adolescent sexual and reproductive health interventions that promote abstinence and other safe sex behaviors through social as well as individual pathways.
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