An Examination of Young Adolescents' Knowledge of and Attitude Toward Sexuality According to Perceived Contraceptive Responsibility1


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    This work was supported in part by grants from the Ford Foundation and The Joyce Foundation to the Center for Health Services and Policy Research, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Special thanks are given to Mrs. Judith Steinhagen, principal of Dusable High School, Dr. Brenda Davis, and the physical education teachers who assisted with this study. Conclusions or opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Population Options.


A total of 442 ninth-grade, black, inner city adolescents participated in a survey of their knowledge of human reproduction, level of self-esteem, and attitudes toward birth control and sexual intercourse. Ninety-two percent of the females and 33% of the males responded that they or they and their partner were responsible for using birth control. The 148 males perceiving contraceptive responsibility as belonging to their partner or no one were most accepting of sexual intercourse and agreed that teenage parenthood is an index of adulthood. Girls were nearly unanimous in their low level of acceptance of sexual intercourse. Annual birth statistics from their high school indicate, however, that a minimum of 13% of these ninth-grade girls will become pregnant in the ensuing academic year. The apparent contradictions of young adolescents' knowledge of and attitudes toward sexuality are discussed in the context of developmental theory.