Condom Use with 'Casual' and
'Main' Partners: What's in a Name?
Journal of Adolescent Health
Vol. 39; No. 3: P. 443.e1-443.e7
The authors of the current study examined how adolescents' attitudes and behaviors regarding condom use differed with "main" as opposed to "casual" partners. At primary care clinics and outreach activities in three major US cities, sexually active persons ages 15-21 were recruited. An audio computer-assisted self-interview was used to collect data, including condom use in the past 90 days, relevant attitudes, substance use, and demographic information.
Sixty-five percent of participants reported main partners only (MP group). Thirty-five percent reported at least one casual partner (CP group). Participants in the MP group were more likely to be female. Males were significantly more likely to report casual partners. The researchers found that race/ethnicity, age, level of education, household income, and STD history were unrelated to group status (i.e., sexual partner type).
Youths in the CP group reported more substance abuse and riskier attitudes. The numbers of unprotected sex acts reported were "substantial and equivalent between the main and casual partner groups (19.2 vs. 21.5, respectively)." Regression analyses found that perceptions of main partner attitudes toward condom use and expectations of condom use were significantly related to condom use with main partners but not with casual partners.
Due to high rates of unprotected sex, youths with either main or casual partners "may be at continued risk" for infection with HIV and STDs, the researchers concluded. "Interventions that do not target attitudes and practices related to casual partners as compared with main partners may miss an opportunity to change risk behaviors. This study demonstrates the importance of understanding an adolescent's perception of partner types in order to design effective interventions."
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