How African American adolescent females construct sexuality: A qualitative ethnographic study

Stacy M Crandall, The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston


Background: The burden of sexually transmitted infections (STI) is greater in the African American community than in any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Rates of reported STIs continue to increase especially among the African American adolescent female population. The CDC calls for interventions to address the social and cultural conditions related to sexual risk-taking behaviors; however, these conditions must first be identified and described. More qualitative research is needed to describe and to better understand African American sexuality and the sexual risk behaviors of this group. The purpose of this study was to better understand how African American adolescent females construct sexuality. Aim: The aim of this study was to describe how African American adolescent (15-19 years) females' constructions of sexual behaviors reflect their values, beliefs and social influences. Methods: From February to April 2013, a sample of 21 African American girls' between the ages of 15-19 years participating in community based afterschool programs in a major urban center in South Central United States was recruited for the study. Both small group interviews and individual interviews were conducted. Data analysis was conducted using an inductive "grounded" analytical approach. Results: Three main categories were identified from the data: the (1) Social Environment, (2) Personal Ethics vs. Emotions, and (3) External Factors. The central theme was the teen's internal struggle between personal values (ethics) and emotions as it relates to sexuality. This struggle included the tension between social desirability and personal goals, as well as views of condom use related to trust and perceived threat which impact sexual behavior. Elements included in the teen's social environment that help shape their sexuality were perceived social norms, condom stigma and peer pressure. External influences included media and other sources of information. Conclusion: Findings from this study suggest that the struggle between a teen's values and emotions along with mixed messages from the social environment and external influences create tension within and between the adolescent's personal ethic and social forces resulting in a lack of personal agency in making a decision related to sexual behavior. These findings may be used to enhance or modify current interventions and/or aid in the design and development of new sexual risk reduction interventions for African American adolescent females.

Subject Area

Nursing|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Crandall, Stacy M, "How African American adolescent females construct sexuality: A qualitative ethnographic study" (2013). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3574414.