Social self-efficacy and sexual communication among adolescents in the United States: a cross-sectional study

Sex Health. 2021 May;18(2):172-179. doi: 10.1071/SH20221.


Background Sexual communication between partners is associated with safer sex behaviours, including condom use among adolescents. Several studies have found a relationship between negative psychological constructs (e.g. depression, anxiety) and poor sexual communication; however, scant research exists regarding positive psychological constructs and their potential to promote effective sexual communication among adolescents. This study examined the association between a positive construct, social self-efficacy - a person's belief in their ability to successfully manage social relationships - and three components of sexual communication: sexual assertiveness, self-efficacy for communication, and frequency of sexual communication with dating partners.

Methods: Data were collected in a cross-sectional survey from 222 high school girls in a rural school district in the south-eastern United States (Mage = 15.2; 38% White, 29% Latina, 24% Black; 50% were in a dating relationship in the past 3 months). Variables were measured with Likert-type scales. Bivariate correlation and regression analyses were conducted.

Results: Social self-efficacy was significantly positively associated with sexual assertiveness and sexual communication self-efficacy for all girls, and there was a positive trend in the relationship between social self-efficacy and communication frequency among the subsample of girls who had a dating partner. The significant relationship with sexual assertiveness (β = 0.22, s.e. = 0.07, P = 0.001) and sexual communication self-efficacy (β = 0.17, s.e. = 0.04, P = 0.013) remained when controlling for sexual activity status.

Conclusions: Strengthening social self-efficacy may enhance girls' sexual communication and assertiveness skills. Future studies are needed to confirm the causal and temporal nature of these associations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Communication
  • Condoms
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Safe Sex
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners
  • United States