Eggleston, Elizabeth; Jackson, Jean; Hardee, Karen
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Sexual attitudes and behavior among young adolescents in Jamaica
International Family Planning Perspectives
Date of Publication
Context: Jamaica has high levels of adolescent sexual activity and pregnancy: Forty percent of Jamaican women have been pregnant before the age of 20. Understanding the reproductive attitudes and behavior of adolescents aged 14 or younger may aid in the development of educational programs designed to combat teenage sexual activity and childbearing. Methods: Data from a 1995 survey of 945 Jamaican students aged 11-14 and information from a set of focus-group discussions with a subset of survey respondents in 1996 are used to explore the reproductive behavior and attitudes of low-income Jamaican youth attending schools of poor academic caliber. Results: Sixty-four percent of boys said they had experienced sexual intercourse, compared to 6% of girls. Both boys and girls had inaccurate knowledge about reproductive health and behavior. Clearly defined gender norms regarding sexual behavior were perceived by the 12-year-olds in the focus groups and suggested that boys perceive social encouragement and pressure to be sexually active. In contrast, girls who have sex, particularly if a pregnancy reveals their sexual activity, are branded as having inferior moral standards. These social norms probably influenced the dramatic differences between boys and girls in reported sexual experience. Conclusions: The sexual attitudes and behavior of young adolescents in Jamaica have already been significantly shaped by sociocultural and gender norms that send mixed messages about sexuality and impose different standards of behavior for boys and girls. Gender-specific family life education should be introduced among younger children in Jamaica, not just those entering puberty. Young adolescents in this environment also need better access to family planning services.....