Purpose: To develop a scale to measure adolescent beliefs and attitudes about postponing sexual initiation (PSI).
Methods: A theory-based, 12-item scale measuring beliefs about PSI was developed and administered via a mailed questionnaire to those participants in an ongoing longitudinal cohort study of adolescents who had not yet initiated sexual intercourse. Internal consistency reliability, content validity, factorial validity, and construct validity were assessed using cross-sectional data.
Results: Mean age for boys was 14.4 (+/- 1.6) years and for girls 14.3 (+/-1.6) years (range 11 to 19 years), and 93% of respondents were white. The beliefs about PSI rated as most important by both girls and boys were concern about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. Cronbach alpha for the scale was 0.83 for girls and 0.88 for boys. Exploratory factor analysis demonstrated that the items loaded on four factors consistent with the theoretical basis of the model and confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated good fit of the overall model. The PSI scale score was associated with hypothesized sociodemographic, psychological, and behavioral variables, supporting construct validity of the scale. A higher score was associated with female gender; age < or = 14 years; higher global and social self-esteem; more frequent attendance at religious services; less peer pressure to have sexual intercourse; nonuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, and cigarettes; and no intention to initiate sexual intercourse in the next year.
Conclusions: The PSI scale demonstrated satisfactory psychometric properties. Future research is needed to evaluate the utility of this scale in predicting sexual initiation and in interventions aimed at postponing sexual initiation.