Attitudinal and contextual factors associated with discussion of sexual issues during adolescent health visits

Cheryl R. Merzel, Nancy L. Vandevanter, Susan Middlestadt, Amy Bleakley, Rebecca Ledsky, Peter A. Messeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose To examine attitudinal and contextual factors associated with the occurrence of sexual health assessments during adolescent primary care visits. Methods A total of 313 primarily African-American youth aged 11-21 years from 16 community-based organizations in suburban Maryland and in New York City completed questionnaires focusing on sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and health care. The analysis examined the relationship of sexual activity, attitudes, and presence of the parent at the health care visit with discussion of three sexual health topics and testing for STD at the most recent health care visit. Data were analyzed using Chi-square tests and logistic regression. Results Overall, 74% of respondents reported that they had talked about at least one sexual health topic at their last health care visit but only 32% had discussed all three topics of sexual behavior, birth control, and STD. Females were more likely than males to discuss birth control although there were no gender differences in the overall likelihood of talking about a sexual health topic. Few adolescents initiated discussion of sexual issues. Positive attitudes toward discussing sexual issues with a provider and absence of a parent at the visit were independently associated with higher odds of discussing at least one sexuality topic and STD testing. Conclusions Although relatively large numbers of adolescents in the sample received sexual health assessments, the proportion was below recommended guidelines. The opportunity to speak privately with a clinician and having positive attitudes about discussing sex with a doctor appear to be important influences on the receipt of sexual health assessments. Improving the quality of adolescent preventive care will require creating a health care environment that facilitates discussion of sexual health issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-115
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Adolescent attitudes
  • Adolescents
  • Gender differences
  • Privacy
  • Sexual health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Attitudinal and contextual factors associated with discussion of sexual issues during adolescent health visits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this