Abstract: Sexual activity among adolescents in Santiago, Chile: An examination of the role of peers, parents, families, and neighborhoods on youth sexual development (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

26P Sexual activity among adolescents in Santiago, Chile: An examination of the role of peers, parents, families, and neighborhoods on youth sexual development

Friday, January 15, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Ninive Sanchez, MSW , University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Doctoral Student, Social Work and Social Science, Ann Arbor, MI
Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, PhD , University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Associate Professor, Ann Arbor, MI
Marcela Castillo, PhD , University of Chile, Assistant Professor, Santiago, Chile
Gabriela Caballero , University of Chile, Psychologist, Santiago, Chile
Jorge Delva, PhD , University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Professor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose: Development of sexual relationships with behaviors that include dating, kissing, sexual touching, and even intercourse begin to manifest themselves by puberty and adolescence. Although physically ready to engage in sexual activity and begin their entrance into the adult world, cognitively and socially adolescents are not yet prepared to take on adult responsibilities that may include raising a child and caring for a partner. In addition, with increased sexual activity adolescents are at increased risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections. In this study we examined individual, parental, familial, and social factors that may be associated with adolescents' likelihood of having sex among a large sample of community youth in Santiago, Chile. Better understanding the familial and parental context under which adolescents engage in sexual activity in countries other than the U.S. can serve to enhance our overall understanding of adolescent sexual development globally.

Methods: This study used cross-sectional data from the first wave of the Santiago Longitudinal Study, a NIDA-funded study of adolescents and their families in Santiago, Chile. Wave 2 assessments will be completed in two years. Participants include 785 youth (mean= 14 years, 51% male) from municipalities of mid- to low- socioeconomic status. Youth completed a two-hour interviewer-administered questionnaire with standardized measures that were pilot tested and validated with the population under investigation prior to conducting the present study. Topics assessed ranged from assessing relationship with parents, peers, religion, crime, school experience, and social problem solving, among others. Interviews were conducted in a private office by the trained interviewers at the University of Chile Institute for Nutrition and Technology of Food (INTA in Spanish). Data were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression statistics.

Results: Sixty (7.5%) youth reported having had sex in their lifetime. Age of first sexual intercourse occurred at 13.1 years (SD=1.6) for boys and 13.9 years (SD=1.2) for girls. Youth who reported having a better, or more positive, relationship with their father were less likely to have had sex (OR=.96, p<0.05), even after adjusting for age (OR=2.88, p<.001) and a range of other individual, familial, and parenting variables. Interestingly, the quality of the relationship with their mother was not significantly associated with having sex. Respondents' sex, SES, perceptions of neighborhood crime, school connection, religiosity, quality of peers, parental control and autonomy, family involvement and social problem solving skills did not distinguish youth who had sex from those who had.

Conclusions and Implications:The study findings point to the need to more carefully examine the critical role that fathers and/or male figures may play, vis a vis mothers and female figures, peers, and other familial and societal influences, in the development of youth, particularly in relation to sexual activity. More research is needed to understand how father-adolescent communication and relationship, particularly in relation to sexual behavior, influences appropriate and safe adolescent sexual development among all youth and racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. and globally.