Relationships Between Adolescents' Sexual and Reproductive Health Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs and Intimate Partner Violence in Young Adulthood
Morrison, Donna R
Although adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health (SRH) knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs (KAB) have been amply studied, most research on the topic focuses on examining contraceptive use and the risk of unintended pregnancy. Relatively little is known about the relationship between adolescents’ SRH awareness and young adult health and well-being outcomes, such as the perpetration and victimization of intimate partner violence (IPV). IPV represents a major public health crisis in the United States: Approximately one-third of both women and men report having experienced some type of violence at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetime. I examine the relationship between adolescents’ SRH KAB and intimate partner violence using data from two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Add Health, which follows a nationally representative sample of individuals over more than a decade (1994–2008), is the largest and most comprehensive longitudinal survey of adolescents to date, and contains detailed information on the sexual and romantic experiences of adolescents and young adults. My study incorporates four key explanatory variables from Wave I—a reproductive and contraceptive knowledge score, a contraceptive attitudes index, a contraceptive confidence index, and a self-efficacy index—which were built using factor analysis. It also includes two dichotomous dependent variables—IPV perpetration and victimization—from Wave III. Multivariate logistic regression analyses reveal similar associations between sociodemographic variables and both IPV measures: Women are much more likely to experience both outcomes, while women who are older at sexual debut or who have high educational attainment are significantly less likely to experience either outcome than their respective counterparts. Surprisingly, adolescents with greater and more accurate SRH knowledge are more likely than those with less knowledge to later become victims of IPV, though knowledge has no bearing on the likelihood of perpetration. Notably, holding more favorable attitudes toward contraception as an adolescent is unambiguously related to a decreased likelihood of experiencing IPV perpetration or victimization as a young adult. These results demonstrate that while knowledge is important, attitudes developed during adolescence are moderately strong correlates of experiencing IPV in young adulthood, providing evidence in support of sexuality education programs that target SRH attitudes and incorporate violence prevention, healthy relationship, and conflict resolution modules.
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