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A cross-sectional study on attitudes toward gender equality, sexual behavior, positive sexual experiences, and communication about sex among sexually active and non-sexually active adolescents in Bolivia and Ecuador
Adolescents Gender attitudes Latin america Positive sexual experiences Sexual behavior
Background: It is widely agreed upon that gender is a key aspect of sexuality however, questions remain on how gender exactly influences adolescents' sexual health. Objective: The aim of this research was to study correlations between gender equality attitudes and sexual behavior, sexual experiences and communication about sex among sexually active and non-sexually active adolescents in 2 Latin American countries. Design: In 2011, a cross-sectional study was carried out among 5,913 adolescents aged 14-18 in 20 secondary schools in Cochabamba (Bolivia) and 6 secondary schools in Cuenca (Ecuador). Models were built using logistic regressions to assess the predictive value of attitudes toward gender equality on adolescents' sexual behavior, on experiences and on communication. Results: The analysis shows that sexually active adolescents who consider gender equality as important report higher current use of contraceptives within the couple. They are more likely to describe their last sexual intercourse as a positive experience and consider it easier to talk with their partner about sexuality than sexually experienced adolescents who are less positively inclined toward gender equality. These correlations remained consistent whether the respondent was a boy or a girl. Non-sexually active adolescents, who consider gender equality to be important, are more likely to think that sexual intercourse is a positive experience. They consider it less necessary to have sexual intercourse to maintain a relationship and find it easier to communicate with their girlfriend or boyfriend than sexually non-active adolescents who consider gender equality to be less important. Comparable results were found for boys and girls. Conclusions: Our results suggest that gender equality attitudes have a positive impact on adolescents' sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and wellbeing. Further research is necessary to better understand the relationship between gender attitudes and specific SRH outcomes such as unwanted teenage pregnancies and sexual pleasure among adolescents worldwide.