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November 1996

Young Adolescents' Comfort With Discussion About Sexual Problems With Their Physician

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Health Care Sciences, The George Washington University Medical Center (Drs Boekeloo and Simmens and Ms Schamus) and Department of Pediatrics, The Children's National Medical Center (Dr Cheng), Washington, DC.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(11):1146-1152. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170360036005

Objective:  To identify factors associated with young adolescents' sense of comfort about discussing sexual problems with their physician.

Design:  Confidential, assisted self-report questionnaires on physician-adolescent communication developed by the investigators and completed by participants at visits for general health examinations.

Setting:  Five primary care pediatric practices at health maintenance organizations in Washington, DC.

Patients:  A consecutive sample of all adolescents 12 to 15 years old who received a general health examination. Of 412 eligible patients, 221 received parental consent and participated.

Main Outcome Measure:  Adolescents' sense of comfort about talking to their physician about a sexually transmitted disease or some other sexual problem. This outcome was chosen for a substudy of a larger longitudinal prevention trial.

Results:  Most adolescents valued their physicians' opinions about sex (89%) and said it was easy to talk to the physician during their visit (99%), but about half said they would be uncomfortable talking to the physician if they had a sexually transmitted disease or some other sexual problem (57%). Adolescents' sense of comfort was greater when physicians discussed sexual issues in the general health examination, adolescents perceived their personal risk of sexually transmitted disease to be high, adolescents had high selfesteem, and physicians were adolescents' usual physicians.

Conclusions:  This study emphasizes the need for physicians to discuss sexual risks with young adolescents and suggests ways physicians can help young adolescents feel more comfortable talking with them about sexual concerns.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:1146-1152