Date of Award
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Mary R. Hassett
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have reached epidemic proportions. Adolescents and young adults are disproportionately affected because of their risk taking behaviors and immature biological systems (Eng & Butler, 1997). Knowledge and attitudes have been identified as factors that influence behaviors; therefore, the purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of young adults regarding the health risk of sexual behavior. Pender’s (1996) Revised Health Promotion Model (HPM) was used as the theoretical base for this investigation. Persons interact with the environment in their pursuit of health. The revised HPM seeks to describe the multidimensional nature of that interaction. The young adult, being in peak physical condition and relying on the outcomes of prior related behaviors, interpersonal influences, and perceived benefit of action, is in constant interaction with the environment especially in matters of sexual behaviors. Young adults attending a Personal Wellness class participated in this investigation by completing a self-report questionnaire, the Young Adult Sexually Transmitted Disease Survey that assessed knowledge of sexual health risks, and attitudes toward sexual health risks and related behaviors. The questionnaire was an adapted version of the Kaiser What Teens Don’t Know (But Should) About Sexually Transmitted Diseases Survey. The sample (N=25) consisted of males (n=10) and females (n=15) between 18 and 35 years of age. The majority (68 to 88%) of subjects knew (a) which STDs are curable and which are not, (b) that AIDS is not the only lifetime STD (100%) and (c) that STDs may cause lifetime problems for males and females (96-100%). All of the young adults knew that STDs can spread without having symptoms and most (96%) knew that symptoms may not appear for months or even years. Subjects also had rational attitudes about the responsibility a person with an STD has to inform past and present sexual partners (100%), and the need to use protective devices when engaging in sexual behaviors (96%). The percentages changed notably when questioned about their comfort in discussing STDs with partners; approximately half (52%) stated they would be comfortable with informing their present partner that they had a STD. However, most (80%) subjects indicated that it was less embarrassing to have sex with someone than to discuss sexual issues with that person. Nearly half (46%) had discussed STDs with a health care provider. Subjects’ self report of personal risk of acquiring an STD revealed that over half (68%) felt they were either low risk or at no risk of acquiring an STD. Yet, many (84%) reported having had sex with at least one person in their lifetime. A few (20%) used condoms for their last intercourse and only (16%) used them all the time. A small number (12%) have had an STD. No symptoms was cited as the number one reported reason they knew they did not have an STD. Findings indicated that knowledge of and attitudes toward sexual health risks had little, if any, effect on sexual health practices. Although, limited in sample size and diversity, the findings of this investigation are similar to those of other studies. This investigation revealed a number of factors that influence health behaviors of young adults as exemplified in Pender’s (1996) revised HPM. Pender’s revised HPM is recommended for use by other researchers, as it aids in understanding those factors that play a part in shaping young adult health practices. Each individual is a unique being with experiences and influences that have an impact on the person, who that person is and what that person does. For this reason further research is necessary to determine effective methods in promoting health life style practices. Future research conducted on this topic would benefit greatly from a larger and more diverse sample of subjects, such as young adults from all lifestyles not only those obtaining formal education. In addition, it is recommended that a combination of two Kaiser instruments, Kaiser Survey of Men and Women on Sexually Transmitted Diseases and What Teens Don’t Know (But Should) About Sexually Transmitted Diseases, be utilized and conducted per telephone or personal interviews in an effort to obtain information that is more inclusive.
Copyright 2000 Kathleen R. Gordon
Gordon, Kathleen R., "Young Adult Sexual Behavior Health Risks: Knowledge and Attitude" (2000). Master's Theses. 2778.