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07-07-2018 | Original Paper | Uitgave 11/2018

Journal of Child and Family Studies 11/2018

A Qualitative Examination of the Relationship Between Body Image and Sexual Behavior: Perceptions from Latina and African American Adolescent Girls and Their Maternal Caregivers

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 11/2018
Rosalie Corona, Michell Pope, Carla Shaffer, Kristina Hood, Efren Velazquez, Jennifer Barinas


Although prior work suggests that how adolescent girls feel about their body is associated with their sexual behavior, we have less insight into the reasons why. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 25 African American adolescent girls (11–14 years of age), 18 Latina adolescents (14–17 years of age), and their maternal caregivers to explore why this association may exist. Both adolescent girls and their maternal caregivers were asked “Who is more likely to have sex, a girl who likes the way her body looks or a girl who doesn’t like the way her body looks?” A similar question was asked about condom use. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, and coded for emergent themes using thematic analysis. Participants’ responded that both girls with a positive body image and those with a negative body image may be likely to have sex because of self- and body-esteem. Two sub-themes emerged that further explained why low self- and body-esteem mattered for girls who have a negative perception of their body: (a) feeling appreciated (b) easily persuaded. Most participants noted that girls with a positive body image perception would be more likely to use condoms. Emergent themes for using condoms were: (a) pregnancy/STI protection; and (b) body preservation. Our findings have implications for empirically exploring the pathways through which body image perceptions relate to adolescent sexual behaviors, and the possibility that universal prevention programs may not resonate similarly for all adolescent girls.

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