CONTEXT: Understanding the nature and magnitude of gender differences in sexual norms among young adults in Nicaragua, and how these differences affect sexual behavior, is important for the design of reproductive health programs. METHODS: A representative cross-sectional survey was conducted in six departments in the Pacific region of Nicaragua in 1998. A total of 552 never-married women and 289 never-married men aged 15-24 were interviewed about their perceptions of social pressure to engage in premarital sex; perceived social approval of and attitudes toward premarital sex and premarital pregnancy; perceived sexual activity among peers and siblings; communication with parents on sexuality issues; the psychosocial context of sexual debut; and preferred sources of information on sexuality issues. RESULTS: Most young men (83%) reported that they had received direct encouragement from at least one person in the last year to engage in premarital sex, and at least half perceived that their father, siblings, other relatives and friends approved of premarital intercourse. A significantly greater proportion of men than of women reported that curiosity or gaining experience motivated their sexual debut (61% vs. 21%). Men perceived themselves to have a higher risk of unplanned and unprotected sex than did women. In contrast, women held more negative attitudes toward premarital sex and were more often discouraged by parents or siblings from engaging in sex. CONCLUSIONS: Reproductive health programs for young Nicaraguans need to address gender-based double standards, which raise the risk of unplanned, unprotected sex and unintended pregnancy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development