Factors predicting safe-sex talk and condom use in early sexual relationships
This study explored some of the antecedents and consequences of young adults' beliefs about safe-sex communication in their early couple relationships. The sample consisted of 237 unmarried, heterosexual Australian university students, 16 to 19 years of age, approximately evenly divided between virgins and those with sexual experience. Drawing on a model of couple sexual communication as the product of prior experiences with communication, assertion, and conflict resolution in the family of origin, we examined links between these variables and respondents' attitudes and practices of safe-sex discussion and condom use with their dating partners. The results showed that women and nonvirgin men had more positive attitudes toward safe-sex communication than male virgins had. Difficulties with self-assertion outside of the sexual context and mothers' and fathers' use of avoidance as a conflict resolution strategy were negatively correlated with willingness to discuss safe sex, whereas mothers' more frequent safe-sex education was a positive predictor. The results of a hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicated that assertion, paternal conflict avoidance, and male gender were independent predictors of reluctance to negotiate for safer sex. At a behavioral level, positive attitudes to safe-sex discussion predicted having talked about AIDS and condoms with a dating partner as well as actual condom use by the subsample of daters who had experienced sexual intercourse. Implications for improving family and couple communication and for sex education were considered.