Sexual values, attitudes, behaviour and the psychosocial well-being of a group of African adolescent males
Kheswa, Jabulani Gilford
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In this quantitative study, the relationships of sexual values, attitudes, decision making and ease of communication, with self-esteem, coping strategies and mental health and well-being of a group (N=552) of African adolescent males were investigated. This study entailed a literature overview of how the constructs were theoretically conceptualised and empirically researched, as well as three manuscripts intended for later publication in accredited journals which served as the research reports. A final chapter presented the conclusions, limitations and recommendations of the study. The concern of parents, educators, youth leaders and even government about the quality and outcomes (mostly problematic) of youth sexuality has been widely documented. In this vein, research into youth sexuality and sexual health largely focuses on self-defeating sexual practices and consequences such as risky sexual activities, unprotected sex with multiple partners, aggressive sexual relationships, and sexual encounters resulting in teenage fatherhood, STD or HIV infections, sexual offences, and more. The same trend exists as far as research of the sexual behaviour of adolescents associated with psycho-social features such as self-esteem, coping strategies and mental health and well-being is concerned, namely that mostly unhealthy psycho-social variables have been associated with problem-laden sexual aspects, for example depression or low self-esteem with risky sexual practices. The definition of sexual health of youth by the World Health Organization, however, recognises that sexual health goes beyond avoiding negative outcomes, towards including the positive and satisfying aspects of sexuality. Sexual health is seen as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence (WHO, cited in Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008). Based on the latter approach to youth sexuality, this study was embedded in positive psychology, healthy developmental psychology, health psychology and constructive social psychology. A salutogenic approach - instead of a pathogenic (as indicated above) - was preferred for this investigation into sexual values and attitudes, sexual decision-making skills and ease of communication about sexual matters of African adolescent males; in relation to their self- esteem, coping strategies and psycho-social health and well-being. The fact that a paucity of research exists about the mentioned features of youth sexuality and their psycho-social well-being was a further motivation for this study. Data for the statistical investigation of variables was gathered from learners in four secondary schools in Gauteng, South Africa. This was a convenience sample including all consenting learners in Grades 10 to 12 at the four schools. Approval for the research was obtained from parents, school principals, the Gauteng Department of Education and the North-West University Ethics Committee. The research participants, ranging from 14 to 21 years of age, completed the following validated measuring instruments: The Mathtech Sexuality Questionnaires for Adolescents: Attitude and Value and Behaviour Inventory (MSQA: AVI and BI) by Kirby (1984), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) by Rosenberg (1965), the Children’s Coping Strategies Checklist (CCSC) of Ayers and Sandler (1999), and the Mental Health Continuum (MHC: LF) by Keyes (2005). Statistical analyses yielded the following, namely descriptive statistics correlational indices and reliability ρ-values; best-fitting measurement and structural models identified with structural equation modelling; mediation variables identified by means of the bootstrapping method; and three latent classes of psycho-social well-being variables identified by means of latent class analysis. The general aim of the study was to analyse the relationships between sexual values, attitudes and aspects of behaviour, self-esteem, coping strategies and mental health and well-being of a group of African male youth. Specific aims included to identify best-fitting statistical measurement and structural models that explain the relationships between variables and the direction of the relationships; to determine whether self-esteem mediates the relationship between mental health and well-being and sexual values and attitudes; to identify possible underlying latent classes to group participants based on their levels of mental health and well-being. Findings concluded that means and standard deviations compared well with those cited in literature that had used the same scales; correlations found were significant and theoretically expected; reliability ρ- values indicated moderate to good internal consistency of the measuring instruments; statistically best-fitting measurement and structural models could be identified; self-esteem was identified as a mediating variable between mental health and well-being and sexual values and attitudes of youth; latent class analysis identified three classes, namely flourishing, moderate mental health and languishing, to which 28%, 56% and 16% of the participants belonged respectively. Based on the empirical findings as well as relevant literature, a proposed programme for sexual education of youth was constructed. This psycho-educational programme could provide guidance to youth regarding aspects of their sexuality such as their values and attitudes, decision-making skills and communication about sexual matters. It could promote self-esteem and healthy coping strategies in sexual experiences, as well as in general and it could enhance their psycho-social well-being (flourishing). Finally, the study was evaluated, conclusions were drawn, limitations indicated, recommendations made and the contribution of this research stated.
- Humanities