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Risky Sex Less Likely for Religious Teens: Report

Risky Sex Less Likely for Religious Teens: Report

October 29, 2001 By Charnicia E. Huggins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Sexually active African-American girls who attend church frequently, pray and partake in other religious activities may be less likely to engage in sexually risky behavior than their less religious peers, new study findings suggest.

Religion appears to play a role in sexually risky behavior, "and that role for this group appears to be protective," lead study author Dr. Donna Hubbard McCree, of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, told Reuters Health.

McCree and her colleagues interviewed over 500 sexually active African-American girls aged 14 to 18 and then re-interviewed them 6 months later. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the group scored high in religiosity, which means they were more likely to attend church, pray and meditate, talk to a spiritual leader or talk to others about religious and spiritual concerns.

The researchers found that these high scorers were 50% more likely than their less religious peers to have waited until after 14 years of age to have sex and 80% more likely to report having used a condom the last time they had sex with their regular male partner.

These findings were presented last week during the 129th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association in Atlanta, Georgia.

Teens who engaged in frequent religious practices were also more likely to have greater confidence in their ability to discuss sexual issues with their partner and were less likely to report either having barriers to condom use or being fearful about negotiating condom use with their partner.

"These findings highlight the importance of addressing protective factors such as religiosity in sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS prevention programs for adolescents," McCree and her colleagues conclude.

Parent-teen discussions about sex and STDs, living with mothers and having supporting families, and belonging to a social organization are other factors that may also help curb risky sex among African-American female teens, according to previous study results.

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