Commitment to “Safer” Sex as a Predictor of Condom Use Among 16-20-Year-Olds1


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    We would like to thank The Economic and Social Research Council for funding this research (Award No. A44250003 to Professor G. M. Breakwell) and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Professor Glynis Breakwell, Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 5XH, England.


The AIDS risk reduction model (ARRM) is explored in the context of a prospective study of adolescent condom use. This three-stage model characterizes the social and psychological facilitation of change in attitudes and sexual behaviors related to HIV transmission. The social and behavioral consequences of AIDS for 63 adolescents (aged 16-20 years), from an urban part of North West London, were mapped over a one-year period. Indices were created according to the proposed model which reflect (a) labelling of a high risk behavior as problematic (e.g., unprotected sexual intercourse) (b) commitment to change (e.g., desiring and valuing “safe” sex), and (c) seeking and enacting appropriate solutions (e.g., use of condoms). Nested regression analysis enabled the inter-relationship between significant social and psychological predictors (Time 1) and behavior (Time 2) to be traced. Overall the model accounted for 30% of the variance in condom use. Contemporaneous behavior was also modeled to identify baseline social and psychological predictors. Twenty-seven percent of the variance in condom use is explained. The social and psychological patterning of the indices is compared with that evidenced for prospective behavior. It appears that social representations which embody normative and value considerations underlie commitment to safer sex (at a general level) and override intentions (at a specific level) in the explanation of prospective behavior. The methodological and theoretical implications of this are identified and discussed.