Factors influencing young women's sexual and reproductive health

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This descriptive study of first year university students, utilising a survey questionnaire, explored sources of information including, but not limited to, the media, factors influencing decision making and young women’s health seeking behaviours in terms of reproductive and sexual health. The overall aim was to add to the body of knowledge for health professionals developing appropriate programs targeting adolescents and young women. Understanding of sexual and reproductive health was variable with only approximately half of respondents demonstrating an adequate understanding. Contrary to an increasing picture of this generation as increasingly engaging in risky and potentially damaging behaviour as depicted in Female chauvinist pigs: The rise of raunch culture by Levy (2005), respondents in this study appeared for the most part to take considered decisions utilising the sources at hand, including popular magazines, while also grappling with expectations imposed by a culture that sexualises girls at younger and younger ages and depicts promiscuity as the norm. The importance of family values, particularly mothers as role models, emerged as important determinants of behaviour, while religious values were identified as important to only 15% of respondents. At the same time, pressure to engage in sex at younger and younger ages and continuing pressure to engage in unprotected and risky sex was a concern. Cynicism was expressed regarding the double standard perceived to be still operating in relation to young men’s and women’s sexual health. Young women in the study were forceful in identifying a need for a much better approach to education within schools directed at both sexes and one that is factual, relevant and all encompassing.

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Journal Article

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ERA Access