A Qualitative Study of the Beliefs, Attitudes, Perceptions and Behavior of Young People About Identity, Sexuality and Health


Code:    00-008
Date:    12/18/2000 - 06/18/2001

This study complemented current knowledge on the beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and behavior of young people about relationships, sexuality and health. The research drew insights on the youth's notions of self and identity; the factors influencing their beliefs, attitudes and behavior; the stressors of adolescent life; and their problem solving and coping mechanisms.

Thirty- two FGDs ( focus group discussions) and thirteen key informant interviews were conducted.

Main Findings

Young people believe in the importance of family, have positive attitude towards friends and peers, have difficulty talking about sex, and have diverse responses to reproductive health.

1.     Most young people value the material and emotional support of family members, particularly of parents.

2.     Whilst most young people give importance to family, some find it difficult to communicate with their parents about sex and related concerns for fear of being regarded as impolite or of being sanctioned.

3.     Most young people are closer to and receive more support from their mother; some desire to have better relationship and communication, especially with their father, and to share their problems and secrets with family members.

4.     Whilst young people value their friends and peers as source of affirmation and support, they also perceive them negatively as potential source of conflicts, stress and pressure.

5.     Generally, females put high value on virginity as they associate sex with love. Contrary, males value this less as they associate sex, before and outside marriage, with masculinity.

6.     There is persistent belief that females should be primarily responsible for the use of contraceptives or birth control methods because they are the ones who get pregnant.

7.     The rise in the incidence of pre-marital sex is not directly proportional to extensive and sustained access by adolescents to sexuality education. Adolescents still adhere to stereotyped male and female behaviors, especially on courtships, dating, sex and marriage.

span style="mso-list: Ignore;">8.     Males and females adhere to both folk beliefs and scientific information about the causes and responses to physiological and physical body changes.  The confluence of these two belief systems influences greatly the manner adolescents respond to reproductive health issues and concerns.

Young people have diverse notions of self, are sure of their gender, enter into sexual relationship early, and are highly concerned about having sex.

1.     Adolescents seem to be less anxious in conforming to rigid and traditional ideas about proper conduct and behavior because of wide-ranging activities they can undertake such as schooling, malling, hanging out with friends, surfing the internet, etc.

2.     Adolescents are sure of their gender and sexual identity even at an early age. Gays come to terms with their identity upon reaching highschool with help from peers of similar sexual orientation.

3.     Self-development of adolescents is influenced significantly by parents, and to a lesser extent, by teachers and school environment.

4.    Sex education classes in school are regarded as insignificant, unrealistic and lacking in info about homosexuality.

5.     Relationships are commonly entered into in highschool because it seems to be the norm.

6.    Chief among the concerns of the youth is sex, which is widely engaged in by peers, with prevalence of drug use.

Major determinants of adolescent beliefs, attitudes and behavior are family, especially parents, followed by friends and peer groups.

1.     Pornographic materials, books and internet are important sources of information about sex for the males.

2.     Teachers and guidance counselors are less important sources of information.

Stressors of adolescent life are bio-physical and psycho-social changes brought about by puberty, inappropriateness of accessible information about sex and sexuality, school obligations or academic performance, family relationships and peer groups.

Most young people cope with their problems by confiding to their close friends and mothers.

1.    Some of them pray, keep their feelings to themselves, divert attention to pleasant things, and “entertain” themselves by singing and dancing.

Conclusions

Young people tend to be confused and anxious about the many changes in their adolescent life, especially if without clear guidance from adults around them; hence, parents’ role is critical at this stage.

Adolescents would have preferred information, advice and support from parents. Fathers are seen as remiss in their role, while mothers are slightly favored. Personal disclosure is more open with peer group than with parents.

Adolescents are highly curious about sex and sexuality, but are fearful and ashamed to seek information, worsened by limited credible information on these subjects.

There is a clear distinction between male and female adolescents in role expectations, social values and behaviors. Males are prone to self-destructive behaviors such as smoking, drinking, substance abuse and violence (in gangs and fraternities). Females are more concerned about pre-marital sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, early marriage, and unfulfilled dreams of the future.

Gender views seem more progressive among female adolescents. Their aspirations go beyond homemaker’s role and they express ideas about women’s rights.

Use of modern technology such as cell phones, text messaging and internet has become more important than traditional means of interpersonal contact like face-to-face interactions and letters.

Recommendations

1.    Design a comprehensive sex education program for adolescents.

2.    Design training programs/workshops for parents and youth on parenting of adolescents.

3.     Consider opening a center for the youth for information sharing and for holding youth-related services and activities.

4.     Strengthen adolescent counseling in schools by training faculty members, personnel and student leaders on relevant topics and issues on sexuality, identity and health.

5.     Consider the information and service needs of special adolescents’ population, such as sexual and physical abuse victims, homosexuals and lesbians, pregnant adolescents, and those with or suspected to have STD.

PopDev Messages

Anytime is a good time for parents to talk to their kids about sex, sexuality and health. (Or more direct to parents: Talk to your kids about sex, before others do.)>

Credible, accurate and accessible information about sex, sexuality and health help youth understand themselves better and enable them to make right choices in life.

Sex and health education program in school will help youth cope better with the changes in their adolescent life.

 

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