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Unformatted text preview: ORIGINAL PAPER A Cognitive Analysis of College Students’ Explanations for Engaging in Unprotected Sexual Intercourse Lucia F. O’Sullivan Æ Wadiya Udell Æ Vernique A. Montrose Æ Patricia Antoniello Æ Susie Hoffman Received: 7 July 2008 / Revised: 18 February 2009 / Accepted: 21 February 2009 Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009 Abstract Youngadults,includingcollegestudents,engagein highlevelsofunprotectedsexualactivitydespiterelativelyhigh rates of HIV/STI and pregnancy-related knowledge. Little is known about the cognitive strategies that young people use to explain this inconsistency. The current study examined young people’s explanations for engaging in unprotected sexual activity in their committed relationships. A total of 63 young adults (32 women and 31 men) completed daily diaries over a 3-week period, providing a total of 1,284 daily reports tracking their condom use and non-use during intercourse. Diary col- lectionwasfollowedbyin-depthinterviewsdesignedtoexplore participants’ decision-making regarding their participation in sexual intercourse unprotected against infection or unwanted pregnancy. Less than a quarter of the sample used condoms or oral contraceptives consistently. Participants primarily viewed condoms as a means of preventing pregnancy; few described disease prevention as a main motivation for their use. Analysis of the cognitions underlying explanations for condom and contraception non-use were classified as (1) general biased risk evaluation, (2) biased evidence evaluation, (3) endorsement of poor alternatives, (4) focus on spurious justifications, (5) dis- missing risk, and (6) ignoring risk. Prevention interventions should incorporate methods to challenge young people to acknowledge personal risk and commit themselves to taking steps to reduce this risk. Keywords Meta-cognition Á Unprotected sexual intercourse Á STI Á Pregnancy Á Prevention Introduction High school students are the target of a vast amount of informational and educational material on the consequences of unprotected sexual behavior, that is, behavior not pro- tected by condom use. In North America, almost all high schools provide HIV/AIDS education as part of mandatory healtheducationcurricula.Forexample,the2007YouthRisk and Behavior Surveillance System survey found that 89.5% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 reported that they received some education in school about AIDS or HIV infection (CDC, 2007a ). Upon entering college, however, young people are less connected to organized prevention efforts (Bradner,Ku, &Lindberg, 2000 ).Yet, there aremanyindices suggesting high rates of unprotected sexual activity in this group. For instance, rates of sexually transmitted infection (STI) are highest among young adults (i.e., adults less than 25 years) compared to all other age groups (CDC, 2007b ), as are rates of abortion (Jones, Darroch, & Henshaw, 2002 ). A L. F. O’Sullivan ( & ) Department of Psychology, University of New Brunswick, P.O. Box 4400, Fredericton, NB E3B 3A1, CanadaP....
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This note was uploaded on 04/27/2010 for the course PSYCH 172 taught by Professor Roberts during the Summer '09 term at UCSD.
- Summer '09