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Using Genital Self-Image, Body Image, and Sexual Behaviors to Predict Gynecological Exam Behaviors of College Women


Andrea L. DeMaria, PhD, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd, Mail Route 0587, Galveston, TX 77555, USA. Tel: (409) 747-4918; Fax: (409) 747-5129; E-mail:


Introduction.  Despite the benefits of gynecological exams, they continue to be underused. A woman's decision to seek gynecological care may be influenced by a number of factors including genital image, body image, and sexual behaviors.

Aims.  The purpose of this study was to assess if genital self-image, body image, and sexual behaviors predict gynecological exam behaviors among a convenience sample of college women.

Methods.  Data were collected from female students enrolled in health-related courses at a large southern university. A total of 450 completed surveys were collected.

Main Outcome Measure.  Descriptive statistics were utilized to analyze participant characteristics. Reliability analyses were conducted to assess internal consistency of scales used within the study, using Cronbach's alpha coefficient as an indicator of this reliability. Predictive discriminant analysis (PDA) was used to indicate the predictor, or group of predictors, best suited to predict gynecological exam behaviors of college women.

Results.  Hit rates yielded from the PDA indicate the number of cases correctly predicted by the classification functions, with higher hit rates being indicative of better predictive capabilities. The following variables were found to be most predictive of gynecological exam behaviors: (i) having had a vaginal intercourse (VI) partner during the past 3 months (68.2%); (ii) genital self-image paired with having had a VI partner (68.2%); (iii) having had a VI partner paired with having had an anal intercourse (AI) partner during the past 3 months (68.2%); and (iv) genital self-image, VI, and AI combined (68.2%).

Conclusion.  VI behavior was found to be the primary predictor of gynecological exam behavior in the current study. Understanding the factors influencing a woman's decision to engage in regular gynecological exams is important in order for health and medical professionals to address the limiting factors in this preventive health measure. DeMaria AL, Hollub AV, and Herbenick D. Using genital self-image, body image, and sexual behaviors to predict gynecological exam behaviors of college women. J Sex Med 2011;8:2484–2492.