Purpose: Consistent condom use is critical to efforts to prevent sexually transmitted infections among adolescents, but condom use may decline as relationships and contraceptive needs change. The purpose of this research is to assess changes in condom non-use longitudinally in the context of changes in relationship quality, coital frequency and hormonal contraceptive choice.
Methods: Participants were women (aged 14-17 years at enrollment) recruited from three urban adolescent medicine clinics. Data were collected at three-month intervals using a face-to-face structured interview. Participants were able to contribute up to 10 interviews, but on average contributed 4.2 interviews over the 27-month period. Independent variables assessed partner-specific relationship quality (five items; scale range 5-25; alpha = .92, e.g., this partner is a very important person to me); and, number of coital events with a specific partner. Additional items assessed experience with oral contraceptive pills (OCP) use and injected depo medroxy-progesterone acetate (DMPA). The outcome variable was number of coital events without condom use during the past three months. Analyses were conducted as a three-level hierarchical linear growth curve model using HLM 6. The Level 1 predictor was time, to test the hypothesis that condom non-use increases over time. Level 2 predictors assessed relationship quality and coital frequency across all partners to assess hypotheses that participants' condom non-use increases over time as a function of relationship quality and coital frequency. Level 3 predictors assessed the participant-level influence of OCP or DMPA experience on time-related changes in condom non-use.
Results: A total of 176 women reported 279 sex partners and contributed 478 visits. Both average coital frequency and average condom non-use linearly increased during the 27-month follow-up. At any given follow-up, about 35% reported recent OCP use, and 65% reported DMPA use. HLM analyses showed that condom non-use increased as a function of time (beta = .12; p = .03, Level 1 analysis). Increased condom non-use over time was primarily a function of increased coital frequency (beta = .01; p = .00), although higher levels of relationship quality were associated with increased condom non-use at enrollment (beta = .44; p = .00, Level 2 analysis). The temporal rise in condom non-use significantly increased among DMPA users (beta = .06; p = .00) but not OCP users (Level 3 analysis) (beta = -.04; p = .06).
Conclusions: Developmentally, relationship characteristics and coital frequency appear to have increasing weight in decisions about condom use. Hormonal contraceptive methods are not equivalently associated with the overall temporal decline in condom use. Future research associated with dual contraceptive/condom use should address differential factors associated condom use in combination with different hormonal methods.