A supportive family may provide an environment that protects female adolescents from engaging in HIV/STD risk behaviors, such as not using condoms with their steady partners, says study author Richard A. Crosby, Ph.D., of the Rollins School of Public Health and the Emory Center for AIDS Research in Atlanta.
The study, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, also showed that the girls from supportive families were almost three times more likely to have used a condom during sex in the past month and were less likely to report emotional abuse from their sexual partners.
Differences in condom use during sex with casual partners were not statistically significant between the two categories of girls, possibly due to too small a sample population, the researchers say.
The study included interviews with 522 African-American girls between the ages of 14 and 18. Follow-up interviews were done at six months with 90 percent of the girls from the first part of the study.
All of the girls were sexually active and from low-income neighborhoods in Birmingham, Ala. All of them reported recently having vaginal intercourse, 40 percent of the girls had a history of pregnancy and 11.5 percent were pregnant at the time of the study. They were recruited from medical clinics and high school health classes.
Girls were considered to have supportive families if they agreed to statements such as, My family really tries to help me; I get the emotional help and support I need from my family; I can talk about my problems with my family; My family is willing to help me make decisions.