Relative power between sexual partners and condom use among adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2002 Jul;31(1):17-25. doi: 10.1016/s1054-139x(01)00418-9.


Purpose: To examine how the relative power of adolescent sexual partners in the domain of emotional intimacy is related to condom use.

Methods: Interviewed 228 adolescents who visited an STD clinic in San Francisco. Adolescents were aged 14-19 years, 69% were female, and they were ethnically diverse. We developed a measure of relative power in the domain of emotional intimacy, by adapting five items from existing measures and developing three items ourselves. The partner who had less desire for emotional intimacy was considered to have more power in that domain. We also measured relative decision-making power. Data were analyzed using logistic regression and Student's t-tests.

Results: Adolescents who had more power than their partners in the domain of emotional intimacy were more likely to get their way about condom use than adolescents who had less power in this domain. Decision-making power was not related to whether adolescents got their way about condom use. Young men reported greater emotional intimacy power and greater decision-making power than young women. However, gender was not related to getting one's way about condom use.

Conclusions: The results suggest the importance of assessing relative power in the sexual relationships of adolescents when predicting condom use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Power, Psychological*
  • San Francisco
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*