Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Understanding Sexual Abstinence in African American Teens

Haglund, Kristin PhD, RN, APRN, BC

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: March-April 2006 - Volume 31 - Issue 2 - p 86-92
Feature articles

Purpose: To explore the perspectives of teenage girls on how life contexts influenced sexuality and sexual abstinence.

Study Design and Methods: A qualitative descriptive study with a convenience sample of 14 sexually abstinent African American adolescent females who were interviewed to obtain their life histories. Narrative analysis was used to identify unique and common experiences and to develop themes.

Results: For these participants, being abstinent was a way to demonstrate their emerging identities as adult women. They described themselves as faithful, unique persons who defied negative stereotypes, avoided risky situations, wanted to be strong women like their mothers and grandmothers, and were selective about their friends. The primary challenge to abstinence was their degree of vulnerability to sexual harassment, romantic partner pressure, and female peer pressure.

Clinical Implications: Abstinence is a complex state of being that is influenced by a variety of contexts, develops over time, and is consciously chosen. Maintaining abstinence requires effort and a variety of skills. While these young women were cognitively familiar with reasons why they should refrain from sex, nurses may still assist youth with being abstinent by providing ongoing teaching and specific dialogue on how to refrain from sex.

We all worry about the effects on health of early sexual activity for teenagers, but some teenagers choose abstinence. This nurse asked them about their choice, so you can use the information with your clients.

Kristin Haglund is an Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. She can be reached via e-mail at

The author has no financial interest or affiliation with any organization or company related to the material in this article.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.