<%BANNER%>

Influences on African American Single Young Adult Women's Decisions about Engaging in Unprotected Premarital Sex

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0042209/00001

Material Information

Title: Influences on African American Single Young Adult Women's Decisions about Engaging in Unprotected Premarital Sex Religiosity, Parental Influence and Male Partner Influence
Physical Description: 1 online resource (92 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Smith, Phedra
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: african, emergent, influences, male, parental, premarital, religiosity, single, transitioning, unprotected
Family, Youth and Community Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Family, Youth and Community Sciences thesis, M.S.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This research explored the factors that impact African American single young adult women?s decisions about unprotected sexual activity, and their views about the importance of parental influence, male partner influence, and religiosity. Indepth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 women ages 19-24, who had a live nonmarital birth in the past 5 years. This study was guided by two research questions as well as theories of symbolic interactionism and social exchange and the concept of fatalism, with an emphasis on understanding women?s own views and the meaning or reasons they assigned to their decisions. Results indicated that women were motivated by love and closeness, an expectation of a long-term partnership, desires for a traditional two-parent family and for self fulfillment. Furthermore, results show that parental influence and religion were not influential at the time of the decision about unprotected sex, but became more important during the pregnancy and after childbirth. The findings suggest that for these women, a decision making process about relationships, unprotected sex, and pregnancy can be viewed as part of an overall transition to adulthood. Although the study is limited by the small sample size, in-depth interviews revealed insights about the study group that can serve as a springboard for further research. As explained in the Discussion Section, further research is needed, particularly with regard to parent-adolescent communication about sex, birth control and sexually transmitted diseases. Another area of future research of importance to the African American community is the role of the church in educating young adults about these matters. In addition, implications of findings for targeted intervention and prevention programs are discussed. The findings suggest that the useful interventions and programs would be aimed at decreasing not only risky sexual behaviors and negative outcomes, but also at increasing the sex education in homes, schools, churches and the community.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Phedra Smith.
Thesis: Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Smith, Suzanna D.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0042209:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0042209/00001

Material Information

Title: Influences on African American Single Young Adult Women's Decisions about Engaging in Unprotected Premarital Sex Religiosity, Parental Influence and Male Partner Influence
Physical Description: 1 online resource (92 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Smith, Phedra
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: african, emergent, influences, male, parental, premarital, religiosity, single, transitioning, unprotected
Family, Youth and Community Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Family, Youth and Community Sciences thesis, M.S.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This research explored the factors that impact African American single young adult women?s decisions about unprotected sexual activity, and their views about the importance of parental influence, male partner influence, and religiosity. Indepth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 women ages 19-24, who had a live nonmarital birth in the past 5 years. This study was guided by two research questions as well as theories of symbolic interactionism and social exchange and the concept of fatalism, with an emphasis on understanding women?s own views and the meaning or reasons they assigned to their decisions. Results indicated that women were motivated by love and closeness, an expectation of a long-term partnership, desires for a traditional two-parent family and for self fulfillment. Furthermore, results show that parental influence and religion were not influential at the time of the decision about unprotected sex, but became more important during the pregnancy and after childbirth. The findings suggest that for these women, a decision making process about relationships, unprotected sex, and pregnancy can be viewed as part of an overall transition to adulthood. Although the study is limited by the small sample size, in-depth interviews revealed insights about the study group that can serve as a springboard for further research. As explained in the Discussion Section, further research is needed, particularly with regard to parent-adolescent communication about sex, birth control and sexually transmitted diseases. Another area of future research of importance to the African American community is the role of the church in educating young adults about these matters. In addition, implications of findings for targeted intervention and prevention programs are discussed. The findings suggest that the useful interventions and programs would be aimed at decreasing not only risky sexual behaviors and negative outcomes, but also at increasing the sex education in homes, schools, churches and the community.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Phedra Smith.
Thesis: Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Smith, Suzanna D.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0042209:00001


This item has the following downloads:


Full Text





INFLUENCES ON AFRICAN AMERICAN SINGLE YOUNG ADULT WOMEN'S
DECISIONS ABOUT ENGAGING IN UNPROTECTED PREMARITAL SEX:
RELIGIOSITY, PARENTAL INFLUENCE AND MALE PARTNER INFLUENCE


















By

PHEDRA SMITH


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2010

































2010 Phedra Smith

































To my husband and my parents, who have been constant supporters









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank my husband for everything; I don't know how I would have been able to

make it without him. I thank my parents for their constant faith and support and my little

brother for being a role model for his big sister in showing me how to stick it out even

when it gets hard. I thank my family as a whole, they have always been positive, loving

and supportive and I couldn't have asked for a better family. I would like to thank my

entire committee for always being available to talk me through my stress or confusion

and to give me words of support and guidance for life, career plans and being

encouraging throughout this entire thesis process.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C KN O W LED G M ENTS ............................. ............... .......................................... 4

L IS T O F T A B L E S ............................................................................................................ 7

LIS T O F F IG U R E S .................................................................. 8

A B S T R A C T ..................................................................................................................... 9

CHAPTER

1 IN T R O D U C T IO N .................................................... .......... 11

P u rpo se of S tudy .................................................... 13
R e se a rch Q u e stio n s ............................................................................. ...... ........ 14
D definition of T erm s.................................................... 14
Significance of Study ...................................... .................. ......... 15
S u m m a ry .................................................................... ..................................... 1 5

2 LITERATURE REVIEW .................................................. 17

Overview ..................... .......... .... ............. ........... 17
Sexual Activity among African American Adolescents and Young Adults............ 17
Religiosity ............... .......................... ..... .... ........ ................. 19
Adolescents' and Young Adults' Sexual Behaviors and Religion .......................... 22
African American Women and Religion ........................................... 22
Parent Influence......................................... ............... 23
M a le P partner Influence ........................................................................ ......... 25
Theoretical Perspectives........................ ....... ......... ............... 26
Symbolic Interactionism....................... ........ ........ 26
Fatalism ................. ...... ..... .. ..................... ........ ............... 27
Social Exchange Theory ................... ................................ 29

3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ............................ ...................... 31

Introduction ............................................ 31
Research Design ................. ......................... ....................... 31
Qualitative Research........................... ............ ............... 32
S a m p le S e le ctio n ....................... ................. ........................................... .. 3 4
Instrumentation ................. ...... ..... ............ ....... ............. 34
Data C collection ....................... .. ........ ..... ......................... 34
Data Processing and Analysis .......................................................... 35









4 R E S U LT S ................ ......... ................................. ............................ 3 9

Dem graphic Characteristics................................................................................ 39
Reactions to Pregnancy and Being a Mother....... ........ ..... .. ............... 41
Influences on Decisions about Unprotected Sex ...... ........ .................... 43
Parental Influence ................ ......... ................. 43
Male Partner Influence ....................... ........ ................... 47
Influence of Religion ........ ................................ ...... ... .... .......... 53
Relative Importance of Each Influence ...... ...................... .............. 56
Rank Ordering of Influences............................................. 56
Rating of Influences.............................. ............... 57
Outlook/W orldview (Fatalism)........................................... 59
Themes and Processes ................... ...... ........ ....... 63
Key Themes Emerging from the Data ..... ............................. 63
Patterns in the Data................................... ............... 64

5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ........................................ 69

D is c u s s io n .............. ..... ............ ................. ............................................. 6 9
R research Q questions ......................... ........... .......... ......................... 69
Theoretical Perspectives ................... .... ..... ......... ... .......... 74
Limitations ................ ......... ........ ...... ......... 77
Conclusion ......... ....... .... ........ ...... ............. 77
Research Implications ........................................ ............ 78
Practice Im plications ........ ......... ......... ............... ............... 78

A PPEN D IX : INTERV IEW G U ID E ......... ................................................ ............... 81

LIST OF REFERENCES .............. ............................... 89

B IO G RA PH ICA L SKETC H ............. ................. ................. .................... ............... 92




















6









LIST OF TABLES


Table page

4-1 Summary of education level of participants. .................................................. 40

4-2 Summary of participants' household income. ................. ............................ 41

4-4 Ranking of influences on decision making....................................................... 56

4-5 Rating of importance of each influence on decision making............................. 58









LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

4-1 Distribution of participants by number of children between 1-4. ......................... 40

4-2 Distribution of participants by education level ............................................... 40

4-3 Distribution of participants by household income....................................... 41

4-4 The process of decisions about unprotected sex.............................................. 68









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science

INFLUENCES ON AFRICAN AMERICAN SINGLE YOUNG ADULT WOMEN'S
DECISIONS ABOUT ENGAGING IN UNPROTECTED PREMARITAL SEX:
PARENTAL INFLUENCE, RELIGIOSITY, AND MALE PARTNER INFLUENCE

By

Phedra Smith

August 2010

Chair: Suzanna Smith
Major: Family, Youth and Community Sciences

This research explored the factors that impact African American single young adult

women's decisions about unprotected sexual activity, and their views about the

importance of parental influence, male partner influence, and religiosity. Indepth semi-

structured interviews were conducted with 10 women ages 19-24, who had a live nonmarital

birth in the past 5 years. This study was guided by two research questions as well as theories

of symbolic interactionism and social exchange and the concept of fatalism, with an

emphasis on understanding women's own views and the meaning or reasons they

assigned to their decisions.

Results indicated that women were motivated by love and closeness, an expectation of a

long-term partnership, desires for a traditional two-parent family and for self fulfillment.

Furthermore, results show that parental influence and religion were not influential at the time of

the decision about unprotected sex, but became more important during the pregnancy and after

childbirth. The findings suggest that for these women, a decision making process about

relationships, unprotected sex, and pregnancy can be viewed as part of an overall transition to

adulthood. Although the study is limited by the small sample size, in-depth interviews revealed

insights about the study group that can serve as a springboard for further research.









As explained in the Discussion Section, further research is needed, particularly with

regard to parent-adolescent communication about sex, birth control and sexually transmitted

diseases. Another area of future research of importance to the African American community is

the role of the church in educating young adults about these matters. In addition, implications of

findings for targeted intervention and prevention programs are discussed. The findings

suggest that the useful interventions and programs would be aimed at decreasing not

only risky sexual behaviors and negative outcomes, but also at increasing the sex

education in homes, schools, churches and the community.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

The recent increase in unmarried births (CDC, 2009) has drawn attention to the

prevalence of sexual activity among young women (Ventura, 2009). In 2009, the

centers for disease control and prevention reported that the percentage of births among

all unmarried women had increased from 38.5% in 2006 to 39.7% in 2007; and 60% of

those births were to unmarried women between the ages of 20-24. Moreover, African

American unmarried women had 71.6% of births in 2007 (Hamilton, Martin, and

Ventura, 2009).

African American women are also at greater risk for sexually transmitted

infections in comparison to White women. Research from the centers for disease control

and prevention sexually transmitted disease surveillance report (2007) highlights the

fact that "African Americans represented 70% of reported gonorrhea cases, 48 percent

chlamydia and 46 percent of syphilis cases. Furthermore, in 2004, human

immunodeficiency virus was the leading cause of death for African American women

aged 25-34 years (CDC STD surveillance report, 2007).

African American women appear to be at greater risk of pregnancy due to lower

rates of contraceptive use. According to the centers for disease control and prevention,

90% of white adolescent females use contraceptives compared to 75% of African

American female adolescent women use contraceptives (MacKay & Duran, 2007).

Interestingly, in a study of 847 mostly African American adolescents that were

followed for 8 years into young adulthood, Fergus, Zimmerman & Caldwell (2007) found

that African American high school students were found to be more likely to have had

sexual intercourse and to report a greater number of sexual partners than white









students. Furthermore, since the outcomes of adolescents' sexual decisions tend to

manifest themselves during their young adult years (Fergus, et al., 2007), more young

adults, specifically African American single young adults, tend to be at risk of unplanned

pregnancy, unplanned births, and sexually transmitted diseases, including human

immunodeficiency virus (Lindberg & Singh, 2008). Additionally, when compared to

other ethnic groups, African American women are more likely to be single mothers

(Carmen, 2008).

These facts point to the need for more research on women's sexual and

reproductive lives in order to more effectively serve them with needed information about

reproductive health However, very little research effort has gone towards examining and

understanding the sexual behaviors of single adult women between the ages of 20-44

(Lindberg & Singh, 2008).

At first glance, these changes in unmarried birth rates appear paradoxical to the

importance of the African American church in the African American community and its

history as a moral guide with teachings about sexual activity and family relationships.

Indeed, religion and spirituality have long had a significant role in the African American

community, according to Mattis and Jagers' (2001) review of literature. Within the

African American community, churches have used religious and spiritual beliefs as a

source of elevation for those who are lonely and need to connect with a family; also the

church teaches ethical responsibilities pertaining to society and African American

community (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). The African American church is a powerful tool of

education for this group of individuals because they have access to individuals that are

normally overlooked (Cornelius, 2009). Religion and are also associated with good









health and happiness, and are protective factors for negative behaviors and outcomes

among adolescents (Mattis & Jagers, 2001).

African American women have historically been noted as more likely to be

religiously affiliated and active at an earlier age then African American men (Mattis &

Jagers, 2001). As a source of emotional and spiritual support, the church has provided

unmarried women and single mothers with a supportive and moral foundation (Mattis &

Jagers, 2001).

Although religion plays a role in the lives of African Americans and single

mothers (Mattis & Jagers, 2001), other, seldom addressed factors, may also play a role

in decisions regarding unprotected sexual activity. Research studies (Bowleg, Lucas &

Tschann, 2004; Robinson, Scheltema & Cherry, 2005) show that men's preferences for

unprotected sex have a strong influence on women's behavior. In addition, a substantial

body of literature (Hutchinson, 2002) shows that parents play a major role in influencing

adolescents' decisions regarding sexual activity.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to explore the factors that impact young African

American single young adult women's decisions about unprotected sexual activity,

particularly the importance of the following factors from the viewpoint of women

themselves: parental influence, male partner influence and religiosity. This study will

also utilize the theory of symbolic interactionism, the concept of Fatalism, and the theory

of social exchange to try to explore the meaning or reasons behind these women's

decisions.









Research Questions

Research question 1: Among African American single young adult mothers, what are
the major factors that they perceive to influence their decisions to have unprotected
premarital sex?

Research question 2: Of what relative importance is each of the following influences
on African American single young adult mothers' decisions to have unprotected
premarital sex: religiosity, parental and male partner influence?

Definition of Terms

Fatalism

Fatalism is the belief that something terrible (e.g., death, poor health) is out of an

individual's control and predetermined by God or something greater than themselves

(Borowsky, Ireland & Resnick, 2009; Franklin, et al., 2007). Important for this study,

fatalism is a possible perspective that can help to better understand the meaning and

attitude towards unprotected premarital sex.

Male Partner Influence on Sexual Decision Making

Male partner influence is another term to describe a gender script where males

control the relationship (Bowleg, Lucas & Tschann, 2004). This study focuses on male

partner influence on sexual decision making.

Parent Influence on Sexual Decision Making

Parental influence is defined as a parent's ability to use their moral outlook and

interpersonal communication as a way to motivate their adolescents' decisions

(Hutchinson, 2002). For the purpose of this study, this concept is also used to describe

the young adult years and consider the young adult's perception of the importance of at

least one parent's influence on decisions regarding unprotected premarital sex during

adolescence and young adult years.









Religiosity

The concept of religiosity is defined as someone's agreement to follow the

traditions and beliefs by participation in and affiliation with a religious congregation.

(Mattis & Jagers, 2001).

Significance of Study

This study will focus on a very important issue with lasting consequences for the

health of African American young adults. Indeed, experts (Lindberg & Singh, 2008) call

for a new emphasis on understanding the current "reality" of what is going on in

unmarried women's sexual patterns, marital status and reproductive practices and

needs. Because the goal is to try to understand the influences that affect sexual

decision making and resulting risk behaviors, the study will have implications for positive

intervention and/or prevention methods and services for adolescent and young adult

women contemplating premarital sex.

Summary

According to national data, African American single young adult women are

statistically more likely than white women to experience unprotected premarital sex and

to bear the consequences of risky sexual outcomes. African American single young

adults tend to be at greater risk of unplanned pregnancy, unplanned births and sexually

transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (Lindberg & Singh,

2008). Also, African American women in their early twenties are more likely to be single

mothers (Carmen, 2008). Therefore, there is an increased need for more research to

better understand women's sexual and reproductive lives in order to more effectively

serve their needs (Lindberg & Singh, 2008).









A better understanding of the influences on young women's sexual decisions

could provide important information to educators, policy makers, and parents seeking to

educate young women about the consequences of risky sexual behaviors. These

findings may also help African American women themselves to recognize the influences

on their behaviors and examine what this means for their own health. Further research,

intervention and prevention programs could enhance the lives of African American

families, churches, relationships and overall health of this population.









CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

Overview

This literature review begins with an overview of the prevalence of sexual activity,

unplanned pregnancy, unplanned births and sexually transmitted diseases among

young adults, particularly African American young women. The review continues with

an overview of the documented influences on adolescent and young sexual decision

making: religion, including the possible linkages between adolescent and young adults'

sexual behaviors and religion, and the history of African American women in religion;

parental influence on adolescent and young adult sexual behaviors; and male partner

influence. In the final section, the theoretical perspectives of fatalism, symbolic

interactionism and social exchange are explored in the context of this study.

Sexual Activity among African American Adolescents and Young Adults

African American adolescents, regardless of gender, are younger at the time of

first sexual intercourse compared to Latin American or European American adolescents

(Chapin, 2001) Fergus, et al., 2007). In fact, Fergus, and colleagues (2007), found that

African American high school students were more likely to be sexually active and have

the greatest number of sexual partners relative to other ethnic groups when compared

with white students. Since the outcomes of adolescents' sexual decisions tend to

manifest themselves during their young adult years (Fergus, et al., 2007) more young

adults, specifically African American single young adults, tend to be at risk of unplanned

pregnancy, unplanned births and sexually transmitted diseases, including human

immunodeficiency virus (Lindberg & Singh, 2008).









According to Chapin (2001), the trend in the overall "percentage of adolescents

that were unmarried at the time of their first intercourse has continued to rise since the

1950's, from under 60% in 1955 to 95% in the mid-80's for both genders (p. 2)."

According to Carmen (2008), African American women in their early twenties, when

compared to any other ethnic group are more likely to be single mothers. Additionally,

African American unmarried women had 71.6% of births in 2007 and 60% of births were

from young adult unmarried women between the ages of 20-24 (Hamilton, et al.,

2009).

Studies have shown that multiple partnerships are more likely to occur in

unmarried relationships and that these relationships are primary markers for contracting

human immunodeficiency virus in heterosexual relationships (Robinson, et al., 2005).

Data shows that in 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available) human

immunodeficiency virus was the leading cause of death among African American

women between the ages of 25-34 (CDC STD surveillance report, 2007).

Because young adulthood is defined as being a time between the ages 18-25

when young people begin to take on alternate identity roles and relationships, their

sexual behaviors tend to deviate from their adolescent identities (Fergus, et al., 2007).

Researchers have been called to pay attention to adolescent sexuality as it develops

though young adulthood (Fortenberry, 2007). In addition, the outcomes of risky sexual

decisions made during adolescent years tend to manifest during the ages of 18-25 in

the forms of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies (Fergus, et al. ,

2007). Furthermore, African American single young women are the leaders among

other ethnic groups to report cases of sexually transmitted diseases, more attention is









needed to understand and lessen the overall sexual risks of this group (Hutchinson,

2002).

Religiosity

Mattis and Jagger (2001) define religion as a combination of traditions and beliefs,

pertaining to a God or gods, shared by a group of people. The concept of religiosity is

defined as someone's agreement to follow the traditions and beliefs by participation in

and affiliation with a religious congregation. Similarly, Chatters, Taylor, Bullard and

Jackson (2008), define religion as being orientated and aimed towards the community

and formed to promote a sense of belonging for people with common beliefs and

traditions in an effort to help them to obtain a closer relationship with God. According to

Thornton (1985), religion is still a very influential part of many peoples' lives today,

regardless of the fact that there have been changes in "moral authority" and the

relationship between churches and individuals (p. 385). For instance, people have been

progressively moving towards an emphasis on the formation of their own "religious

commitments and beliefs" and away from obeying traditional beliefs based only on

"loyalty and obligation" (Thornton, 1985, p. 385). Furthermore, in a study looking at

traditional Christian beliefs and beliefs on premarital sex, it was found that there was a

decrease in the amount of people that believe that it is wrong to engage in sex before

marriage (Pertersen & Donnenwerth, 1997). In fact, frequent church attendance did not

change the fact that people are moving towards a belief in letting their conscience guide

them in their beliefs about premarital sex and other religious doctrine (Pertersen &

Donnenwerth, 1997). In addition, individuals have started to use religion more for its

"personal meaning" and less for its "doctrine" which has consequently been proven by









the new and more "confident" feelings in their ability to set their own rules and traditions

that define their beliefs and (Thornton, 1985, p. 385).

This change has particular relevance to the study of premarital sex. In the past,

the church, based on traditional Christian beliefs had strict rules on abstinence until

marriage and on avoiding the use of contraceptives; sanctions endorsing a two-parent

family structure; and moral principles expressing opposition to abortion (Thornton,

1985). However, such moral mandates have become harder to enforce because of the

increase in premarital sex, unplanned pregnancies, divorce, and abortions (Thornton,

1985). These rules affected not only congregants themselves but also church leaders

who have personally experienced such issues in their own families (Thornton, 1985).

Religion and spirituality have historically played a pivotal role in the African

American community, and the black church is one of the most important institutions

(Mattis & Jagers 2001; Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Within the African American community,

churches have used their religious and spiritual beliefs to be a source of elevation for

those who are lonely and need to connect with others who could offer supportive

kinship-type relationships (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Churches have also been a primary

influence in teaching individuals their ethical responsibilities pertaining to society and

their African American community (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Additionally, Mattis and

Jagers (2001), found that African American believers consider that an essential way for

an individual to show he or she is a true believer is through their degree of "religious

commitment" (p. 529). Hunt and Hunt (2000) concluded that although "racial

segregation" was the reason that the African American church became such a powerful

"cultural presence of an overarching community" (p. 587), this influence was diluted









during migration from the "rural South" into more established and variant "regions and

urban life" (p. 588). Moreover, since many African Americans have changed in their

ways of life, the church consequently does not hold the same power that it once had

(Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Nevertheless, it still has held its stake in being a "smaller-scale

moral center" for many African American communities and families (Hunt & Hunt, 2000,

p. 590).

This change has particular relevance to the study of premarital sex. In the past,

the church, based on traditional Christian beliefs had strict rules on abstinence until

marriage and on avoiding the use of contraceptives; sanctions endorsing a two-parent

family structure; and moral principles expressing opposition to abortion (Thornton,

1985). However, such moral mandates have become harder to enforce because of the

increase in premarital sex, unplanned pregnancies, divorce, and abortions (Thornton,

1985). These rules affected not only congregants themselves but also church leaders

who have personally experienced such issues in their own families (Thornton, 1985).

Religion and spirituality have historically played a pivotal role in the African

American community, and the black church is one of the most important institutions

(Mattis & Jagers 2001; Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Within the African American community,

churches have used their religious and spiritual beliefs to be a source of elevation for

those who are lonely and need to connect with others who could offer supportive

kinship-type relationships (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Churches have also been a primary

influence in teaching individuals their ethical responsibilities pertaining to society and

their African American community (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Additionally, Mattis and

Jagers (2001), found that African American believers consider that an essential way for









an individual to show he or she is a true believer is through their degree of "religious

commitment" (p. 529). Hunt and Hunt (2000) concluded that although "racial

segregation" was the reason that the African American church became such a powerful

"cultural presence of an overarching community" (p. 587), this influence was diluted

during migration from the "rural South" into more established and variant "regions and

urban life" (p. 588). Moreover, since many African Americans have changed in their

ways of life, the church consequently does not hold the same power that it once had

(Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Nevertheless, it still has held its stake in being a "smaller-scale

moral center" for many African American communities and families (Hunt & Hunt, 2000,

p. 590).

Adolescents' and Young Adults' Sexual Behaviors and Religion

Adolescents may be more likely to participate in risky sexual behaviors such as

the inconsistent use of condoms and having more than one sexual partner, at least in

part because their decision making skills have not been fully developed (Fergus, et al.

2007). Studies have shown that religion and spirituality two factors play a significant

role in increasing happiness and good health, and lowering negative behaviors and

outcomes (Mattis & Jagers, 2001).

African American Women and Religion

African American women of all ages are more likely to identify themselves as

having a close relationship with God and being religious and belonging to a church

compared to African American men (Orzorak, 1996). Ozorak (1996) also highlights the

fact that among African American women, positive emotions such as self-confidence

are linked to church activity and attendance. Additionally, "religion" and "spirituality"

promote many positive emotions such as "happiness, love, hope, peace, calm, faith,









pride, optimism, strength, courage, confidence, trust, and forgiveness in the everyday

lives of African American women," (Mattis & Jagers', 2001, p. 521). Furthermore,

religion also plays an important role in the lives of unmarried women and single mothers

by being a source of answers to prayer, as well as providing emotional, moral and

family support (Mattis & Jagers, 2001).

In a study reviewing empirical research on the role of religion and spirituality

among African Americans, Mattis and Jagers (2001) highlighted the fact that the church

has historically had a more powerful influence on African American women than on the

men, finding that women were more likely to have belonged to a church and participated

in the church at an earlier age than men. In their review, Mattis & Jagers (2001),

suggested that among most African American religious families, there is a greater

emphasis placed on girls and young women being involved in church-related activities

than is the case for young men. Mattis & Jagers (2001), suggest that gender difference

in religious involvement may explain why African American women have higher levels of

long term religious commitment then men. Cornelius (2009) adds that church leaders

have the potential to have a powerful and even prominent educational role among

African American women because of their convenient access to this group.

Parent Influence

A parents' moral outlook and communication on the subject of sex serves as a key

factor in adolescents' decisions on when to initially start engaging in sexual activities,

with parental communication resulting in delayed onset of sexual activity, as well as

decisions about contraceptive use (Hutchinson, 2002). It is important to note that some

sexual risk behaviors start in the adolescent years and carry over into young adulthood

(Fergus, et al., 2007). Although some of these risky behaviors among African American









adolescents may decline as they move into young adulthood, the negative outcomes

may still be consequential (Fergus, et al., 2007). Therefore, parents can be influential in

eliminating some of these negative outcomes such as unintended pregnancy and

sexually transmitted diseases by having a continuous and open line of communication

with their children, especially mothers with their daughters (Hutchinson, 2002).

Hutchinson (2002), found that mother and daughter communication is much more

influential than peer communication in delaying the initiation of sex and in shaping their

views on sex. Interestingly, African American adolescents had high levels of parent and

adolescent communication, higher than Hispanic and White adolescents (Hutchinson,

2002). Nevertheless, African American adolescents and young women still remain the

largest group to report cases of sexually transmitted diseases despite the parental

influence and parent- adolescent communication (Hutchinson, 2002). Hutchinson

(2002), states that the communication about postponing sexual activity is no match for

the high levels of sexual risk outcomes in the young adult African American community.

Although in the study Hutchinson (2002) did not find a significant father influence on

delayed sexual initiation and values, but reported other researchers the powerful role

that fathers play in decreasing sexual risks. Fathers provide insight on the way males

think and offering a more broad range of conversations on topics of sex (Hutchinson,

2002).

Moreover, the effects of single parenthood could weigh significantly on

communication with adolescents, as illustrated by Cornelius (2009) research on African

American single mothers and their views of faith based programs for their adolescents.

Mothers admitted that they lacked the ability to provide sufficient supervision (Cornelius,









2009). Furthermore, not only were they unprepared to discuss topics on sex, they were

also not comfortable doing so. Overall, parental influence could be a significant

influence on sexual risk behaviors taken during adolescent years and possible negative

outcomes could be mitigated for the young adulthood years as well. However, based on

Hutchinson's (2002) findings on parent influence on African American young women,

there may be other factors that outweigh parental influence.

Male Partner Influence

Male partner influence is another term to describe a gender script where males

control the relationship (Bowleg, et al., 2004). African American women tend to follow

the conventional female character in which they are submissive to the men in the

relationships and allow them to hold the authority in the relationship (Bowleg, et al.,

2004). Furthermore, men tend to control sexual decisions like condom use in the

relationship (Bowleg, et al., 2004), suggesting that they have enormous influence not

only over sexual activity, but over possible pregnancy outcomes. In their qualitative

study of 14 African American women between the ages of 22-39, Bowleg, and

colleagues (2004) examined relationship and sexual scripts and found that women held

low amounts of authority when it came to condom use; men controlled the use of

condoms by being the ones to either demand or refuse condom use during sex, without

negotiation with their partner. Interestingly, Bowleg, and colleagues (2004) findings

showed that women did not base their use of condoms on the risks of human

immunodeficiency virus and pregnancy. Additionally, in studying the sexual risk

behaviors low income African American women, Robinson, and colleagues (2005),

found that infrequent condom use was associated with positive attitudes towards using

condoms and the desire to become pregnant. In addition, the male partner's desire to









have a child was more likely to dictate the use of a condom regardless of the desires of

the woman (Robinson, et al., 2005).

One possible reason that male influence dominates decision making is that

"optimistic bias" colors women's perceptions of the possible outcomes of unprotected

sex. Optimistic bias is defined as the misperception of one's invincibility from the

negative consequences of risky sexual behaviors (Chapin, 2001). Possibly, optimistic

bias is operating among African American women who do not want to become pregnant

but also desire to, and in fact are expected to, please their partner. Support for this idea

comes from research conducted by Chapin (2001), who found that different ethnic

groups of college students all showed signs of optimistic bias about their ability to avoid

contracting human immunodeficiency virus. This suggests that the use of condoms, or

conversely, the frequency of unprotected sex, is better predicted by women's perception

or view of their sexual risk outcomes, rather than by their actual risk outcomes (Chapin,

2001).

Theoretical Perspectives

For this study, symbolic interactionism, the fatalism construct, and the social

exchange theory will be explored in order to try to gain a more knowledgeable and

broad understanding. Because this study does not have a specific framework or theory

that explains what it is or how it works, the combination of these three perspectives will

be explored in order to further explain the study.

Symbolic Interactionism

This theory was derived from George Herbert Mead. According to White and Klein

(2002), humans are driven to create meanings to help them understand their world. A

person's motives are constructed from the meanings available to them and relevant to









the situations in their environment and they become visible by means of social

interaction (White & Klein, 2002). The "family context is important because family

serves as a means of extreme interaction and they are integral in helping a person

create meanings and verification for their life and actions (White & Klein 2002, p 63)." It

is noted that you cannot simply rely on understanding the motives and actions of people

by looking at the meanings of material objects and things from strictly a physical aspect

because they hold a symbolic importance (White & Klein, 2002). Rather, you have to

understand the meaning behind things in order to understand the reasons behind the

person's actions. Another assumption that this theory holds is the idea that individuals

have minds that "presupposes an individual self that perceives, reasons, senses and

imagines." (White & Klein 2002, p. 64) They discuss that fact that the brain can be

changed over time by a person's life experiences. Therefore, it is assumed that the

mind acquires, integrates and processes information and at the same time it can reflect

on its own processes which can help it develop as an "actor (human being) (I) and an

object (me)" (White & Klein 2002, p. 64). The authors state that according to Mead, an

individuals' mind is a product of society. This theory is useful in studying and developing

qualitative work because it is commonly used in studying a person's behavior or

perceptions. Moreover, this theory is useful and relevant to this topic because it helps

bring light to the idea that every behavior has a meaning buried behind it. Things'

meanings are cultivated by a person's surroundings, i.e., parents, church and other

impactful relationships.

Fatalism

The perspective of fatalism has been used in many studies of patient compliance

with prescribed cancer treatments, including African American women with a fatalistic









world view who tended not to get treatment because they believed that God's will

determined their fate (Franklin, et al., 2007). Fatalism is the belief that something "bad"

(e.g., death, health outcomes) is out of an individual's control and predetermined by a

"higher power" (Borowsky, et al., 2009; Franklin, et al., 2007). In the case of cancer,

fatalism operates when there is an acceptance of death from cancer which hinders the

individual from pursuing potentially stressful treatment (Powe, 1997).

This perspective may be particularly relevant to African Americans, because

according to some research, they are less likely to participate in or follow up with cancer

screening due to cancer fatalism (Powe, 1997). In a study of over 20,000 adolescents in

grades 7 to 12 participating in the National Study of Longitudinal Health, Borowsky and

colleagues (2009) found that adolescents' risky behaviors were predicted by a belief

that they would face death in 1-7 years. The results of this study showed that a larger

proportion of minorities had a fatalistic view of their personal future: 29.1% of Native

Americans, 25.7% of African Americans, 21.2% of Hispanics, 14.9% of Asians, and

10.2% of white adolescents shared a fatalistic view (Borowsky, et al., 2009). The

researchers concluded that among the teens in this study, the higher their perceptions

were of an early death, then the higher their chances of having future serious health

outcomes, i.e., human immunodeficiency virus (Borowsky, et al., 2009). Therefore,

according to Borowsky and colleagues (2009), fatalism should be considered an

important signal of possible serious health outcomes in the individual's future.

Few researchers have studied "religious fatalism" (Franklin, et. al., 2007).

Religious fatalism is a term used to identify people whose religious/spiritual practice is

greatly influenced by their belief that nothing can stop God's will (Franklin, et. al., 2007).









Neff and Hoppe's (1993) study using data on 1,784 adults from different cultures

examined how fatalism affects psychological distress among different cultural groups,

and found that fatalism was higher among Hispanics and African Americans in

comparison to whites. Also, fatalism was defined as an "adaptive response" to life

situations viewed as out of a person's control, especially among minorities (Neff &

Hoppe, 1993).

In summary, numerous scholars urge further studies of the reasons for sexual risk

taking among African American single young adult women because of the potential for

serious and long lasting negative outcomes. Yet very little research has attempted to

better understand these influences. This study focuses on our previously unaddressed

influences on African American young women's decisions regarding unprotected sex:

religiosity, family, male partner influence, and fatalism. The purpose of this study is to

uncover whether these factors impact young women's decisions about unprotected

sexual activity.

Social Exchange Theory

Unlike the perspective of fatalism, the theory of social exchange explores the

concept of "rationality" and "cost and reward" (White & Klein 2002, p 38, 39). Axioms of

this theory oppose fatalistic thinking because it assumes that the individual is not

being externally controlled but instead has the complete ability to make "rational

choices" based on the idea of "costs and rewards" (White & Klein 2002, p.34). From this

perspective, individuals have rational in their thinking and can rationally come up with

the costs and rewards of their decisions. In some situations the individuals may have

different "costs and rewards" or "motivations" that they associate with the behavior

(White & Klein 2002, p. 33). The theory of Social Exchange assumes that since









individuals are "rational" and are able to deduce their "costs and rewards" of their

behaviors, then they are fully aware of what repercussions, if any, that their behaviors

will yield because their "motivations will explain their behaviors" (White & Klein 2002, p.

35). However, "in order to understand any actor's choice as rational then we need to

know what the person considers rewarding and costly" (White & Klein 2002, p. 39).

This theory also explores the idea that a "rational person may be willing to incur

some losses in order to maintain a profitable relationship" (White & Klein 2002, p. 41)

and when the relationship is no longer a "fair exchange" then the individuals break up

(White & Klein 2002, p. 41). Exchange theory also is based on the assumption that

since "the actors are rational, then they are interchangeable" which means that if they

are "given the same rewards, costs and weights, any actor would make the same

choice as any other" (White & Klein 2002, p. 40). This theory is useful in understanding

this study because the individuals may be fully aware of their costs and benefits from

their decisions and the idea of male partner influence and fatalism may not be accurate

justifications for their behaviors. This theory allows for the idea of "rationality" and "cost

and reward" to be further examined and applied in relation to understanding these

women's decisions.









CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Introduction

The purpose of this research study is to determine the influences of several

factors on African American single young adult women's decisions to have unprotected

premarital sex, with a particular emphasis on understanding the role of religion in

women's decisions. This chapter explains how this study was conducted, including the

research design, sample selection, instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis.

Research Design

The research design of this paper is a case study. A case study is a "unit" (i.e.,

individual, family, marriages, organizations, decisions, time periods) that the researcher

is trying to collect data about and analyze in order to better understand a "phenomena"

as a whole (de Vaus, 2001, p.220). A case study design is useful for this thesis

because it will provide a "more complex and fuller understanding of the whole

phenomena" (de Vaus, 2001, p.221), in this case, factors influencing African American

single young women's decisions about unprotected sexual behaviors. A case study

design is useful because it "emphasizes an understanding of the whole case and seeing

the case within its wider context" (de Vaus, 2001, p.234) and examining parts within

whole (de Vaus, 2001, p.235). The goal of this study is to understand how African

American single mothers decided to engage in unprotected sex, and also to uncover

some of the factors that may or may not play an integral part in their decisions.

Therefore, for this study, a case study design seems most appropriate.









Qualitative Research

Qualitative methods were chosen for this research because of the exploratory

nature of this study and the compatibility of the research questions with the goals of

qualitative research. Qualitative research questions aim to identify and explore

communication and relationships among a particular group; to understand the meaning

of attitudes and behaviors of a particular group; and to create theories by examining and

understanding links and connections from the data collected (Fossey, Harvey,

McDermott & Davidson, 2002). Also, broad questions, rather than specific hypotheses

are used to get a deeper understanding of the phenomena under study (Fossey et al.,

2002).

According to de Vaus (2001), qualitative "case study designs are often viewed as

lacking in the areas of internal and external validity, but "careful attention to these

matters" at the design stage of the study can ensure necessary rigor (de Vaus, 2001,

p.233). In order to have internal and external validity, the researcher must have a valid

method for sampling, data collection and data analysis (Whittemore, Chase & Mandle,

2001). To insure internal validity the study design should clearly define the demographic

characteristics of the study population, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, as well as

the study variables (de Vaus, 2001, p. 28).

This study preserves internal validity by clearly defining the population and

variables in question. Furthermore, an expert panel composed of 4 individuals with

experience and knowledge of the topic reviewed the interview questions; the researcher

will modified the instrument according to their recommendations. The expert panel

consisted of 4 African American single young adult mothers. The researcher asked

each question and the members of the panel answered the questions. Although external









validity is a major concern in quantitative research, in exploratory qualitative research

such as this, which is aimed at better understanding the viewpoints of participants and

the processes affecting decisions, trustworthiness is more important. One of the most

important concerns is validity within the data analysis stages, which means that the

researcher must be careful to uphold the originality and integrity of the words and

overall perspectives of the participant (Fossey et al., 2002).

"Along with validity, the study must be reliable in that if it is repeated then it will

yield the same conclusions consistently" (de Vaus, 2001, p.30). Unlike quantitative

research, there are three target areas of interest in qualitative research: "language as a

means to explore processes of communication and patterns of interaction within

particular social groups; description and interpretation of subjective meanings attributed

to situations and actions; and theory-building through discovering patterns and

connections in qualitative data" (Fossey et al., 2002, p.723).

A set of guidelines was developed by Lincoln and Guba (1994) and discussed by

Fossey et al., (2002) to assess the honesty and validity in qualitative research. The

guidelines are to make sure that the qualitative study maintains its "credibility,

transferability, dependability and conformability" which are defined as the "internal and

external validity, reliability and objectivity, respectively" (Fossey et al., 2002, p723). ,

Although barriers to perfect reliability and validity exist, (de Vaus, 2001, p.31), these

steps toward maintaining reliability and validity will help decrease the chances of a

study "yielding weak and unreliable results" (de Vaus, 2001, p.31).









Qualitative research has several methods, with interviewing, focus groups, and

participant observation being the most common (Fossey et al., 2002). This study will

use interviews as the means of data collection.

Sample Selection

The purposive sample was composed of African American single mothers that had

never been married and have had unprotected premarital sex. The sample of 10

mothers was located through a referral sampling procedure by "initiating contact with a

small group of individuals relevant to the study" and asking them to recommend

additional contacts (Bryman, 2004, p. 100). The participants were asked an initial

qualifying question to determine whether or not they qualified to participate in this study:

[When you became pregnant, did you have unprotected sex?]. A small incentive to

encourage participation was provided.

Instrumentation

For this study, semi-structured interview questions were developed to collect data

to address the research questions. The interview questions were reviewed by an expert

panel and revised based on their input. See Appendix A for the Interview Guide.

Data Collection

Semi-structured interviews allow participants to have "a great deal of leeway in

how to reply" to questions (Bryman, 2004, p.321) and result in a deeper and wider

understanding of the study topic from the participants' point of view (Denzin & Lincoln,

1994). In semi-structured interviews the researcher uses an interview guide with a "list

of questions or fairly specific topics to be covered"; however, the guide does not have to

be followed exactly and questions can be added, but the same questions must be used

for all interviewees (Bryman, 2004, p321). The interview guide is composed of









"introduction, follow up, probing, specifying, direct and indirect questions" (Bryman,

2004, p. 326).

Face to face interviews were conducted with 10 African American single mothers

between the ages of 18-24. The data were collected by a single researcher. Interviews

were audio recorded and then later transcribed for data analysis (Bryman, 2004). The

usage of tape recording and note taking helped the researcher to remember the

participants' emotions, nonverbal cues, and procedures. Field notes provided contextual

and affective data possibly not reflected in the transcripts. The researcher's reflections

and observational notes after the meeting were used to helped recall ideas, themes,

and helpful lines of questioning (Rabiee, 2004).

Data Processing and Analysis

The interviews were held at a location chosen by participants, most often their

home and in one instance a reserved room in a library. Participants were asked to make

themselves comfortable and face the interviewer, with the recorder placed in the center

of the table. The study purpose and procedures were explained prior to the meeting at

the time participants were recruited; the purpose of the study was reviewed and consent

forms provided at the beginning of the interview. The researcher took care to build

rapport during the recruitment phase and the beginnings of the interview in particular. It

is important to ensure that the participant feels comfortable during the entire process,

this will allow for open and unrestricted responses which will yield a fuller understanding

to the participants' views of their story (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994, p. 367), and also ensure

study validity.

The interviewer followed a set script described in more detail in the

instrumentation section. The topics were emailed out to the participants prior to the









interview so that the participants feel comfortable and familiar with the topics. Each

interview lasted approximately 1 hour, with the shortest interviewing running 45 minutes

and the longest, 1 hour. A pre-test was conducted with 2 individuals who met the study

criteria, in order to make sure that the instrument was valid and reliable and the

interview process was non-offensive and proceeded smoothly. As a result the pretest

confirmed the usefulness of the interview instrument and procedure.

After the first three interviews, the interviewer re-checked for any emerging themes

and then decided if a question should be added or changed for the next interviews. The

researcher personally transcribed the audio recordings. Data were analyzed by

following the framework analysis proposed by Ritchie and Spencer (1994) and

discussed in Rabiee (2004): "familiarization; identifying a thematic framework; indexing;

charting; mapping and interpretation" (p. 657).

The researcher became familiar with the data by "listening to tapes, reading the

transcripts in their entirety several time, reading the observational notes that were taken

during interview and the summary notes written immediately after the interview"

(Rabiee, 2004, p. 657), while also paying attention to emerging themes that became

apparent throughout the data. At the end of the interview, the interviewer asked each

participant if they would be open for future follow up questions if needed and if they

would check their emails for a follow up summary.

Immediately after each interview the interviewer made a half page summary which

will summarize the information from the interview. This summary was emailed to each

participant, requesting that they check over it and make sure that their points and words

were accurately captured during the interview. At this point, the follow up email also









asked and allowed the participant if they would like to add anything that they might have

forgotten during the interview or delete anything that was misunderstood or worded

incorrectly. This process was done to help to ensure content validity. In the next stage,

the researcher wrote key words in the margins of the transcripts to identify ideas,

concepts, and categories coming out of the data. Indexing involves sorting through the

data, highlighting key areas, and making comparisons. In the charting stage, quotes

were lifted and reorganize by themes (Rabiee, 2004).

The final stage is mapping and interpretation. In this stage it is important that the

researcher understands and translates the corrected meanings from the quotes taken

from the previous stage. Criteria for creating a foundation for understanding and

translating coded data was developed by Krueger (1994) and discussed in Rabiee

(2004): "words and their meanings; context; internal consistency; frequency and

extensiveness of comments; specificity of comments; intensity of comments; big ideas."

According to Bryman (2004), the researcher should listen and write down reoccurring

themes and place them into categories. Overall, Bryman (2004) describes coding as

being able to "break down data into component parts, which are given names" (p. 537).

This study used these techniques in order to make sure data was not lost during the

analysis stage.

During the data analysis stage, the researcher met with the adviser to develop the

coding procedures including the code book sheet and coding process. The coding

scheme was tested by the researcher and the chair on one interview, their respective

results compared, and the coding scheme modified. The interviewer and adviser

subsequently independently coded all interviews and compared results; discrepancies









in codes were discussed and corrected when consensus was reached. This process

better ensures the reliability of the analysis.









CHAPTER 4
RESULTS

The research objective was to explore and uncover the factors that impact

African American single young adult women's decisions about unprotected sexual

activity, particularly parental influence, male partner influence, and religiosity. This

chapter presents the results of the analysis of data collected in in-depth, face-to-face

interviews with 10 African American women between the ages of 18 and 24. For the

purpose of confidentiality, names were changed in the results section.

The first section presents the descriptive statistics for the demographic

characteristics of the sample. The second section continues with background

information on feelings about being a mother. The third section addresses Research

Question 1, presenting the results of the analyses of the influences on decisions about

unprotected sex. The fourth section addresses Research Question 2 and the relative

importance of each influence. The last section in this chapter brings out themes and

patterns emerging from the data.

Demographic Characteristics

Demographic summary statistics include numbers reporting, range, and mean

score of the following characteristics: age, number of children, education level, living

situation, current employment, and household income. First regarding age, 10 out of 10

women reported their ages, ranging from 18 to 24 years, with a mean age of 23 years.

As shown in Figure 4-1, with regard to number of children, participants had between 1

and 4 children and most (70%) reported having one child.

Figure 4-2 show results for education level. The majority of the sample, 70%, had

at least some college. Of the 10 women, one had no high school diploma, two had at









least a high school diploma, three had completed some college, and four had a

bachelors degree. The results for the living situation of the participants were split with

50% living alone and the other 50% with a parent or significant other.











Figure 4-1. Distribution of participants by number of children between 1-4.

Table 4-1. Summary of education level of participants.
Education Level % Females (n =10) Females (n = 10)
No High School 10% 1
High School 20% 2
Some College 30% 3
Bachelors 40% 4










Figure 4-2. Distribution of participants by education level.

Regarding the current employment status of the 10 participants, two participants

were unemployed and the other 8 participants were employed. Participants were

represented in all four income categories, with 40% of participants falling in the lower

bracket, but 30% in the higher bracket. Table 4-3 and Figure 4-3 show participant

household income levels.









Table 4-2. Summary of participants' household income.
Household Income % Females (n = 10) Females (n = 10)
15,000-19,900 40% 4
20,000-24,900 20% 2
25,000-29,900 10% 1
30,000-34,900 30% 3











Figure 4-3. Distribution of participants by household income.

Reactions to Pregnancy and Being a Mother

To begin discussion, the opening question asked, "How did you feel when you

found out that you were pregnant". There were a variety of responses, including:

shocked, guilty, worried, excited and happy, unexpected, not shocked, upset and

disappointed, shame and denial.

For example, one respondent, Sherry, said, "I wasn't shocked because I knew

that what we were doing would eventually lead to pregnancy." Another respondent,

Melonie, stated "My main concern was what people would say, people in my family."

Teesha said, "I wasn't happy because of my situation (not being married and having my

own place and a job). I didn't feel that I was ready." Finally, Natalie described her

experience by stating, "It was crazy because I was shocked. I was keeping up with my

cycle and when and when not to have sex." Also Natalie said, "I was scared and

disappointed in myself. My mom was the first person that I thought about and I didn't

want to disappoint her. I cried." Another participant, Courtney, stated, "I felt guilty. I felt









ashamed. I was wondering how I was going to handle a two year old and twins. I was

just really upset, really."

The participants' responses included both positive and negative reactions.

However, the majority (n=8) expressed what might be considered to be on the negative

end of the spectrum with a minority of respondents (n=2) indicating a positive reaction.

One of these women, Sherry, stated, "I was excited but worried because I wondered

how things would change in my life since I was in school and would have to raise a child

for 18 plus years." Veronica said, "I was surprised and shocked but I was still very

happy when I found out that I was pregnant."

When asked how they felt about being a mother now, half described the support

they receive to carry out this new role as being very important. For example: Veronica

stated that "Being a mother is not as hard as I thought it was going to be. I believe that

it's a lot easier because I have a good family and support system." Natalie said, "I think

that it's going pretty good. As far as my child being taken care of, I've been lucky

because my support system."

Several participants reported that they loved being a mom, although three also

qualified their response with a recognition of difficulties as well. Rylie said, "Things are a

lot easier. Just like anything else, it has its ups and downs but for the most part it's

good. I love being a mom; it's the best job ever." Lidia explained, "Good, I guess they

are good compared to thoughts of not being a mom. I feel like it could be better

financially but everything is good, I'm making it." Melonie stated, "It's more work. It's a

lot of work to balance school, work and other things. Another worry is that I'm about to









graduate and what if I don't find a job right away and am I going to be a good example

for her."

Two respondents saw their children as being their "sanity". Teesha said, "Great! I

love being a mom, I feel that they are my sanity and they keep me smiling." Also,

Roslynne said,

I believe that God brought my baby in my life to make me feel proud and
accomplished. I look at other people in my situation and I can look around
and be proud of myself because I'm not on welfare and I'm not getting child
support but I'm doing great. I believe God brought my baby into my life to
give me mental stability because I use to be my hardest critic and I put
myself down so much and I had a nervous break-down because I felt like I
wasn't accomplishing anything. Now, looking at my baby I feel like I have
accomplished a lot.

Influences on Decisions about Unprotected Sex

The first research question asked, Among African American single young adult

mothers, what are the major factors that they perceive to influence their decisions to

have unprotected premarital sex? In the following sections, I discuss the major

influences on participants' decisions as previously identified: parental influence, male

partner influence, religion and Fatalism.

Parental Influence

When asked, "What influence did your mother and/or father have on your

decisions about your intimate relationship?," (n=9) participants reported that their

parents had not talked to them about sex. Sherry stated, "My parent's never taught me

anything about a relationship. I never really had much of a parent/child relationship."

Maria said,

I would really say none. I feel that you can tell me not to do something but I
feel that you should tell me by showing me and I didn't really have anyone
actually in my life to say, ok, this is what you're not supposed to do and I'm
going to show you how not to do it. I felt as though I was grown, I had









graduated from college and I was just like, "I'm grown and I can do
whatever I want to do." I knew that I should have been doing better but they
didn't really have a very strong influence on it.

Natalie said, "I can't really say that my parents talked to me about a relationship.

They discussed sex with me but not in detail and if they did then I don't remember. I

always remember coming up with my own idea of a "good man".

Many respondents (n=5) attributed a lack of parental communication to an absent

father or poor relationship with their mother. Melonie said, "My father wasn't around

(incarcerated). I feel that having a male influence is important because when my step

father was around, I didn't get into as much trouble because I had a male influence to

talk to."

Lidia stated, "My mom, to be honest, I don't think that she has the best judgment

even now when it comes to men. I trust her as far as wanting someone to love me the

right way but I guess I feel that she settle a lot which makes me not want to listen to

what she has to say."

Roslynne said, "My mom didn't have much of an influence on whether or not I

dated him (baby's father) because I felt that she didn't really know him and just looked

at the outside. I knew him as a person. It was important because I know my mom in the

past has been right so many different times but she has also been wrong. It was 50/50,

it was important but not enough to change my decisions."

Two respondents regretted not having a father figure in their lives. Melonie said,

"I wish that I did have a father figure around to talk to about certain issues or questions.

I feel that I would not have gotten pregnant if my father was around."









Maria said, "Now that I'm older I can see that if my father would have been more

active in my life that I could have made a lot of better decisions. So I think that it would

have been better if they would have been more involved."

Two women reflected that their pregnancy was part of a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Courtney said,

Actually, my mom had a lot to do with it. My family period had a lot to do
with it because I was always labeled like my mom. My mom was a young
mother, a very very young pre-teen mother and because I was labeled as
such, it kind of put the negative thoughts into my mind to be like well, "I
might as well do it, since y'all are accusing me of doing it anyways." That's
how I initially started having sex.

Roslynne said,

Yes, because I felt that a lot of things that she thought was happening
between me and him weren't happening and I felt that because she kept
assuming then it did happen. I always tell her that she made her "dreams
come true"-she kept saying that we were having sex and were going to get
pregnant even when we weren't.

Nevertheless, the most common response (n=7) was that the decisions about

sexual intimacy and partner selection was primarily based on the woman's own choices.

For example; Sherry said,

No, no one had any influence on my preferences. I felt that it was my
decision. I feel that it wasn't "consciously" but more based on how I was
raised. My grandmother had an opinion about him and she wasn't too
thrilled but once she spoke to him then she decided to try to trust him.

Melonie stated,

My mother didn't really influence my decisions to date baby's father. My
mother felt that we weren't compatible because I was in college and he
wasn't. I thought about my mother's words and opinions but of course I did
what I wanted to do in the end.

In addition, participants were asked about the quality of their relationship at the

time of the pregnancy. Three women reported having a poor relationship, whereas three









reported having a good mother-daughter relationship. For example, Rylie stated, "Me

and my mom had a relationship but it wasn't the best relationship. I really didn't care. I

felt that if I got pregnant then I got pregnant, if it happens then it happens. I really wasn't

concerned about whether or not she was disappointed."

Rosynne stated, "It was rocky. We were getting in to it. She was staying with me

and we had financial troubles."

However, Melonie stated, "At the time I got pregnant, my relationship with my

mother was really good because my mother was concerned." Lidia said, "I grew closer

to my mom. Some of my friends got distant. My mom was like my best friend during my

pregnancy."

Half of the respondents felt that they didn't have "real, active" parents. Sherry said,

"Very little influence because it may be the fact that I never considered them to be

"actual" parents." Rylie said,

I went back and forth between my father and my mother every other year. I
feel that I felt that I was in love and everything because I didn't really have a
good relationship with neither of my parents. It wasn't important at all. Our
relationship didn't mean much until I was well into my pregnancy and that's
when they started to act like parents.

Maria said, "It was important because I wish they would have done more. They

weren't really parents that were involved with my lifestyle and assisting me with dating."

When asked about their family background; three respondents said that they were

raised by a sister or grandmother because their parents were not available (e.g.,

incarcerated parents). Half of the respondents stated that their mom gave them advice

about men; however, they had a poor relationship with their fathers. Half of the

participants commented that that they learned what to do and how to choose a partner

by watching the lives of their parents. For example: Sherry said,









I learned a little from living with each parent off and on through watching
their individual relationships with their significant other, however, it was not
enough to be much of an impact on my decisions about my intimate
relationshipss. Overall, I learned more of how to choose a partner (looking
at values and morals and goals).

Melonie said,

Some of the things that I took and the things that I went through in my
relationship with my baby's father was some of the same qualities that my
step father and biological father possessed. I tried to fight against my
mother's opinions of being like, no, no, no the entire time that me and the
baby's father dated. We started dating when I was 14 or 15 years old. The
things that attracted me to my baby's father were things that I saw in my
upbringing.

Lidia said, "... I feel that I made those decisions on my own. I guess by watching

who she dated and stuff it kind of influenced the type of men I chose."

Male Partner Influence

When asked about the closeness of their relationship with their child's father at

the time of the pregnancy, 6 out of 10 women described their relationship as being very

close; 4 of these women stated the closeness had to do with the couple's history, i.e.,

length of time of their relationship. Sherry said, "We had a very close relationship

because we had been together for 2 years and had established trust, love and

familiarity with each other." Maria said, ""Yes, we've been very close. He's been in my

life forever."

Over half of the women (n=6) also reported the relationship as being rocky and

changing once they became pregnant. For example: Sherry said, "I started to become a

little more reserved and uneasy because the baby's father started to become negatively

influenced by his family."

Lidia said, "We were close because we were good friends for a while. Before I got

pregnant there weren't any issues but once responsibility and reality sat in things got









bad. After a month of me being pregnant, he stopped calling and started being distant."

Melonie stated, "We were close but only because we had been together for so long. At

the time of my pregnancy we were on bad terms. Not doing well."

When asked what was important to them about their relationship with their

significant other, most women (n=8) identified love, trust, and commitment as being

important. Courtney said, "I think that emotions had a lot to do with it. I trusted him,

loved him. Love is a big thing. I felt that I really loved him and trusted him."

Natalie said, "I guess we were both committed to each other. That's what I got

from him and that's what I showed him. It was just over a period of time we gradually

used less and less condoms. As we got closer we became more committed."

Some of the women (n=3) felt that being married and having their partner's

commitment to them and their child were important. When asked about their closeness

with their partner, some of the women (n=3) emphasized that to them, the trust and

closeness they felt was associated with marriage. For example, Sherry said,

Mainly because in my mind, after being with this person for 2 years, I felt
that I could see myself being with him for the rest of my life and having
children. I felt that I had been with him for that long and that I trust him and I
knew that we were a monogamous couple. In my mind, we were already
married because I felt that this was the one, the man that I was to be with
forever. I had already committed to love and trust him and figured that we
would have a future together. I use to just feel that I could repent until we
became official but in the mean time, this was a decision that I felt was
right.

Veronica stated, "We did everything that married people did except for get

married. We have everything but the paper. He has said I'm his wife."

When asked about what was important to them about their relationship with their

male partner at the time of their pregnancy, expectations for a two parent family,









support for the child and the mother were very important factors to these women. Sherry

stated,

The most important thing was that once we found out that I was pregnant, I
wanted to know if he was going to be a responsible father (emotionally,
financially and stuff). I wanted to know that he was going to be there for me
and we would do this together and help out as much as he could. It was
important to me because of my childhood (not having both parents) I felt
that it was a necessity that my child had a better childhood with both
parents.

Melonie said, "Once I was pregnant, I wanted my relationship to work because I

wanted my baby to have a mother and father that were together." Lidia said, "When I

got pregnant I always thought that I would be married to the person that I got pregnant

by. So regardless of what type of love was there, I got confused with what love was and

I had the dream of basically having a family."

The next question was directed at understanding how participants became

pregnant and their decisions at that time: "Can you explain to me how you got

pregnant?" In response, 6 out of 10 stated that it "just happened".

For instance, Teesha said, "It wasn't planned, it just happened. We discussed a

future together with kids but it wasn't planned to happen so soon." Rylie stated, "It just

happened. I wanted to have sex but I didn't want to get pregnant. So I didn't try to get

pregnant." Sherry stated, "No, it wasn't a planned decision but it wasn't unexpected

either. We knew what could happen but we never tried to stop it."

Maria said,

No, it just kind of happened. We had unprotected sex. What happened was
right before we got ready to have sex, he went to go get a condom and then
after sex, I realized that he never put it on. So it wasn't just like, "Oh we're
going to have unprotected sex!" And I just kind of asked him after because I
saw the condom laying on the floor.









When asked about their decisions to have unprotected sex, 7 of the 10 women

stated that there wasn't any pressure from their partner. Lidia said, "It was important. If

he would have told me that he wanted to use protection then I wouldn't have been able

to stop him." Sherry stated, "It was a decision made between the two of us. There was

never any pressure." Melonie said, "There was never any pressure. He never got a

condom and I never told him to get one." Veronica said, "I had sex without a condom

because I didn't want to lose him. I didn't want him to go out there because they always

say [people] "what you won't do then somebody else will"."

A common response (n=5) was related to knowing that they and their partners

were both "clean" i.e., safe from sexually transmitted diseases. Courtney said, "We

knew that we were both "clean" and I felt that 'one time' wouldn't hurt. We had gotten

tested so STD's weren't a problem. I would rather take a child any day over an STD."

In response to the question about her decision to have unprotected sex, Lidia said,

"I knew that using protection would stop things from happening but it wasn't a concern

because I trusted him."

Natalie said, "Pregnancy was my biggest fear in the beginning and I had already

got tested for STD's and we both got tested."

Veronica stated, "I kept sleeping with him because it's too many diseases out

there and I didn't want to sleep with anyone else and he felt the same way. He said "I

know you clean and I'm clean"."

Some of the women (n=2) expressed that their partners didn't like to use

condoms. In addition, 3 out of 10 women expressed that they personally didn't like to

use condoms because of comfort. Teesha said, "It just happened." I don't like condoms









so I didn't want to use one. He wanted to use one but I didn't like the way they felt."

Rylie stated, "Well, it felt better and we didn't really ever use condoms." Roslynne said,

"We went to have sex and he couldn't perform with a condom. He really wanted to have

sex so we decided to not use a condom so that it would work."

Alcohol was involved in the decision making for 2 of the women. Courtney said, "At

the time, I knew that there was a possibility that I could get pregnant but I didn't care

enough because I was drunk and my thinking was, "I don't think it will happen this one

time and we'll be alright"."

For 3 out of 10 women, their past experiences and the experiences of others

played a role in their decision making. For example; Courtney stated, "I've thought

about this and had this conversation with my ex before: I feel that there are many

people that have had unprotected sex for years and have not gotten pregnant because

it's not meant to be, so if we get pregnant then it's meant, ya' know. We both felt the

same way."

Lidia said,

We weren't using condoms so I guess you can say it was planned but it
wasn't really planned. But I didn't think that I could get pregnant at the time.
Well because before him, he was the second person that I had slept with
and with my first love, I never used protection with him and I never got
pregnant. And with my son's father, we were together a whole year and I
had never gotten pregnant.

Veronica stated, "Prior to me getting pregnant I think we used a condom that

supposedly wouldn't break but it broke but I didn't get pregnant. So we felt that it was

meant to happen. Even when he tried to get me pregnant in the past, it wouldn't

happen."









Two women felt that they weren't themselves at the time of their decision. For

example; Teesha said,

I knew that a condom would prevent STD's and pregnancy. I thought about
the potential outcomes but at that time, emotionally I felt sad and lonely and
sex was a way for me to feel better and wanted. It wasn't about love or
trust, sex was a way for me to take away the pain. I guess I felt in control of
that part of my life.

Roslynne stated,

Yes, unprotected sex was definitely a risk that I wouldn't have normally
took. In the past I wasn't in a stable place mentally. My baby's father knows
that now, he wouldn't even get my phone number. I was depressed and
trying to find happiness in the wrong places back then. I tried to improve my
self-esteem and I didn't know my self-worth at the time so I did things to
justify me.

Some of the women (n=3) felt that the decision to not use contraception happened

gradually over time. For example; Sherry stated, "It wasn't always unprotected sex but

as the trust and love progressed in our relationship, then we just made a conscious

choice to have unprotected sex." Natalie said, "It wasn't, it was just over a period of time

we gradually used less and less condoms. As we got closer we became more

committed."

A minority of women (n=2) stated that they felt that they were looking for love.

Maria stated, "I was chasing something and looking for something but now that I know

that God is love, I'm not looking for love anymore." Rylie said, "I went back and forth

between my father and my mother every other year. I feel that I felt that I was in love

and everything because I didn't really have a good relationship with neither of my

parents."









Influence of Religion

Several questions tapped the influence of religion in participants' lives. When

asked how important currently is religion is in their lives, 9 out of 10 said that it is very

important. For example, Courtney said, "Right now it is very important. I attend church

and I pray, I have a very close relationship with God.

Furthermore, when asked, "Would you consider yourself 'religious'?" 8 women

identified themselves as having a very strong faith or being very religious with regular

church attendance. For instance, Sherry said, "Yes, very religious. I try to go to church

every Sunday."

However, 2 women said that they don't consider themselves to be religious.

Melonie said, "I don't consider myself to be religious because I don't follow the Bible

totally and don't go to church every Sunday. I consider my Grandmother to be religious.

I believe in God but wouldn't describe myself as religious."

Veronica stated, "I would say no. Religious to me means, going to church, reading

your bible and going to every event."

When asked whether their religious beliefs affected their decisions about sexual

intimacy, half of the women (n=5) reported that either they didn't think about religion at

the time, or it wasn't as important at that time in their life. For example; Rylie said, "I was

religious about some things but with sex, I didn't feel that I could wait [on marriage]."

A follow-up question asked, "How important was religion in your life (at the time

you got pregnant)?"Natalie said, "Not very important. I got baptized but being around

friends and stuff I guess I followed the crowd. I only went back [to church] then because

my mom went." Teesha stated, "No, because I didn't think about it at that time. It wasn't









on my mind. I feel like sex is the same as any other sin. I never felt religion a big deal in

determining my decision to engage in sex before marriage."

On the other hand, 3 women felt guilty because of their religious beliefs. Lidia said,

"It was something in the back of my mind, I always believed that premarital sex was

wrong but it wasn't anything that I focused on at that time." Roslynne stated, "Back then,

I was still religious because I would feel so guilty and stupid."

When asked, "How important was religion in making a decision about sexual

intimacy?", four women who identified as being very religious also felt that they made

their decision based on their need to explore who they were outside of religion. For

example; Courtney said,

I knew better when I did it and I was always in the church, but I felt like I
had been in church all my life and I felt like I never got to experience what
normal kids experience. I felt that I wanted to live my life and do things that I
wanted to do. It probably wasn't number one but it was always important. I
still attended church on the regular but like I said, I felt like I had missed out
so I was still trying to do other things.

Roslynne stated,

Religion is extremely important. I wear myself out to stay connected. I feel
like that was the problem before, I felt like I burned myself out from going to
church all the time and I wanted to see what I was missing (outside of
church) which is how I got involved in a lot of things (having sex and all of
that). At the time I felt that I was losing boyfriend after boyfriend because I
would always be involved in something at church and that's when I decided
to step down from the activities in order to experience other things. It
[Religion] was always important but I just wanted to experience life.

The remaining women (n=6) felt that either it was a personal decision not based

on religion. Natalie said, "No, because I didn't think about religion at that time. It wasn't

on my mind." Melonie said, "I felt convicted about having sex but I didn't stop having

sex." Rylie stated, "It wasn't important at all. I wasn't really thinking about that."









The participants were asked how important was religion in making a decision

about your pregnancy? Four women stated that they spoke to a religious advisor about

their pregnancy, while the rest of the women felt that it was a decision that they made

on their own. Maria stated,

I talked to a pastor and his wife and I was crying and I said that I feel like I
made a mistake and don't know if I'm making the right decision to keep him.
I feel like that male influence is very important because my pastor said that
my child had purpose and that the sin was in the sex and not in the child
because only God can create life. And when he said that, I really began to
feel that my child did have purpose. I look at my pastor as a father, a
spiritual father and his words really had an effect on me. I had other family
members trying to tell me in those words but when it came from him, I was
just like, "ok, I got it".


Courtney said, "When I found out I was pregnant, I went to my pastor and his wife

and told them that I wasn't sure about what to do. I also talked to them about the effects

that it was having on my mom and it helped a lot." However, Teesha said, "No, I made

my own decision." Natalie stated, "I didn't feel that I need religion to help me make any

decisions about pregnancy."

When asked if they felt that religion was more important in certain areas of their

lives than others, half of the women stated that in the past it was. For example; Maria

said,

Back then, I would pray or go to church every now and then and think that it
was ok to do whatever and just ask for God to forgive me and I would just
continue to do it. In the past it was more of me being "religious vs. having a
personal relationship". If you ask me back then, I would say it was important
but my actions said different.

Courtney stated, "I think for me, yes. I say yes because the religious setting I was

raised in. It was always like, sex was hush hush. I was taught that sex is a sin and you

shouldn't do it but it never was dealt with in detail like it should have been."









However, two women felt that religion was important in every area of their lives.

Roslynne stated, "No, I was religious with everything and I feel like that's why certain

people didn't want to be around me."

Relative Importance of Each Influence

The second research question was, Of what relative importance is each of the following
influences on African American single young adult mothers' decisions to have
unprotected premarital sex: religiosity, parental and male partner influence?

Rank Ordering of Influences

To address this research question, participants were first asked to "rank order,

from most influential to least influential in their importance to your decisions about

sexual intimacy: parental influence, male partner influence, and religious influence", with

1=most influential, 2=somewhat influential, and 3=not influential). Table 4-4 shows the

results of the ranking.

Table 4-4. Ranking of influences on decision making.
Percent and Number by Ranking Category (1 =most
influential, 2= somewhat, 3=least/not influential
Type of Influence Category Percent (n)
Parental 1 40 (4)
2 50 (5)
3 0(0)
Other 10(1)
Male Partner 1 60 (6)
2 20(2)
3 0(0)
Other 20 (2)
Religiosity 1 10(1)
2 10(1)
3 80 (8)
Other 0 (0)

With regard to male partner influence, 6 out of 10 women identified it as being the

most influential factor in their decision because their relationship was important. For

example, Melonie stated, "Male partner- I thought that sex would help my relationship









by having sex because it was something that he wanted and he felt that it would bring

us closer and my boyfriend thought that it would help the relationship and be a way for

us to get closer." Sherry stated, "Male--most important but there was never any

pressure. It was mutual but I cared most about our future and our relationship."

These results show that participants felt that parental influence and other

caregiver's influence was only somewhat important. Natalie stated, "I feel that my

parents were not an influence at all because they were never around and never talked

to my about sex." Teesha said, "Parental--"Somewhat'-- because I felt that it was

important but at the end of the day it was all on me."

Overall, religion was found to be the least influential. Sherry stated, "Religion--

"Somewhat'--because it wasn't as important at that point." Lidia stated, "Somewhat-my

faith wasn't as strong." Natalie said, "Religion was not important determining whether or

not I would have sex (wasn't really thinking about religion at the time)."

An additional finding was that 3 out of 10 women identified a new response option

that they themselves were the most influential, more so than their male partner in

making the decision about sexual intimacy. Natalie stated, "Male partner influence, I felt

that having him was important but not as much as my own self. I felt that my own

choices outweighed other people." Lidia said, "I still valued my family's opinions but it

was still a decision that I made." Teesha stated, "Parental- Somewhat because I felt that

it was important but at the end of the day it was all on me."

Rating of Influences

To address the second research question, participants were also asked to, "rate

the strength of the importance of each of the following on your decisions about sexual

intimacy on a scale of (1-4)" (1= not important at all, 2=somewhat important,









3=somewhat not important, and 4=very important). Table 4-5 shows the results of this

rating.

Table 4-5. Rating of importance of each influence on decision making.
Percent and Number by Rating Category (1=not
important, 2=somewhat not, 3=somewhat, 4=very
important
Type of Influence Category Percent (n)
Parental 1 20 (2)
2 40 (4)
3 20(2)
4 0 (0)
Other 10(1)
Male Partner 1 0 (0)
2 0(0)
3 30 (3)
4 50 (5)
Other 30 (3)
Religiosity 1 60 (6)
2 10(1)
3 20 (2)
4 0(0)
Other 0 (0)

These results show that, as with the rankings, the male partner's influence was

very important, with 5 women giving it the highest ranking. For example, Melonie stated,

"I thought that sex would help my relationship because it was something that he wanted

and he felt that it would bring us closer."

Also similar to the rankings, 4 out of 10 women identified themselves as being very

important in their decisions. Natalie stated, "It was more about what I wanted to do."

Teesha stated, "I felt that I was the most influential person/thing in my decision to

engage in unprotect/premarital sex because I made the decision."

On the other hand, parental influence and religion had relatively little influence on

women's decisions. Six women reported that parental influence was not important or

somewhat not important. For example, Sherry stated, "My parent's never taught me









anything about a relationship. I never really had much of a parent/child relationship."

Melonie stated, "Parental influence was only somewhat not [important] because

although I thought about it, I still did what I wanted to do." In addition, most women

(n=6) felt that religion was not important at all.

The "other" categories is left as an option for the women that felt that their were

other influences that impacted them. The women that were raised by another relative

other than their parents were given the option to rate them if needed. Also, this option of

"other" was also used for the women (n=1) that felt that "self" was another influence.

Natalie said, "I felt that having him [male partner] was important but not as much as my

own self. I felt that my own choices outweighed other people."

Outlook/Worldview (Fatalism)

To tap the concept of worldview or fatalism introduced as a possible influence on

pregnancy decisions, participants were asked several questions: (1) "How were things

going in your life at the time (of the pregnancy)?" (2) "Did you feel you were personally

in control of things that were happening at the time? How much control did you feel you

had?" (3) Thinking about your intimate relationship, did you feel that whatever outcome

that came about (pregnancy, STI) was meant to happen regardless of whether or not

you used protection?"

When participants were asked about how their lives were going at the time of their

pregnancy, the group was divided, with half reporting that things were going well, and

the other half saying that things were bad or rocky.

Lidia stated, "Things were going good. I had graduated with my LPN degree and

was working as a successful nurse."









Courtney said, "I had my own apartment and I felt independent. For the first time in

my life I felt like a young adult and I think that played a part. I felt grown and I felt that I

could do 'grown people' things."

However, Rylie noted, "It was ok but stressful. I couldn't do anything with friends or

anything."

Veronica said, "Bad, we were being evicted. My hours went from 20 to 8. I had to

move back home which I hated. My car was acting up. Me and Rick [baby's father]

weren't doing to good. It was just one thing after another."

When asked if they felt personally in control of things that were happening at the

time and how much control they felt, the majority (n=6) said that they felt somewhat or

completely in control. Sherry stated, "I felt that I was in complete control. I knew that my

actions would lead to certain consequences but I felt mature enough to have a sense of

responsibility for my actions. I had a good support and community system so I felt very

stable about my decisions and life." Melonie stated, "Yes, I felt that I had control of the

things that were happening but I did feel pressure from school."

Other participants (n=4) stated that they felt totally out of control. Natalie said, "No,

felt totally out of control and sex was an outlet (made me feel better and wanted)."

Roslynne said,

I felt out of control. I felt like I wasn't making decisions that my normal self
would have made. I think that I was taking more risks to try to make myself
feel happier. I was wondering why I wasn't happy with the accomplishments
I had made. Yes, unprotected sex was definitely a risk that I wouldn't have
normally took.

Veronica stated, "No, I felt like I had very little control, less than 50%. I felt that I

couldn't control anything. Except for my relationship because I felt like I played a part in

that by listening to my family."









In response to the question asking whether any outcomes (pregnancy, sexually

transmitted disease) were meant to happen regardless of whether or not they used

protection, half the women (n=5) stated that they felt that it was meant to happen. For

example; Rylie stated, "Yes, I believe that everything happens for a reason."

Veronica said,

Yep, that's my outlook on life. I feel like if it's meant to be then it will be.Prior
to me getting pregnant I think we used a condom that supposedly wouldn't
break but it broke but I didn't get pregnant. So we felt that it was meant to
happen. Even when he tried to get me pregnant in the past, it wouldn't
happen.

However, the other half of these women felt that they knew what could happen

and that they had control over the things that were going on in their lives. Natalie stated,

"He knew what could happen because he already had kids and he didn't want any more

until he got married but I didn't want to use one, so we didn't. I knew what could happen

but I just really didn't think about it and I really didn't expect it to happen."

Reporting a sense of invincibility at the time she got pregnant, Lidia stated, "I knew

that using protection would stop things from happening but it wasn't a concern because

I trusted him. I felt invincible; I felt that I didn't see any of that happening to me."

Additional questions tapped women's perspective on whether "God's will" or "fate"

was at work in their decisions. First, participants were asked if they believed in God's

will and/or fate and their definition of God's will. There were a variety of responses to

this question. Courtney stated, "Yes, God's will is God's will and if it's God's will then I

don't care what you do, it's going to happen. I don't think that fate and God's will are the

same thing and I think that God's will dominates over everything."

Sherry said, "Now, it means more than it did then. In the past I felt that it meant

'luck'. I believed in it but I also believed that 'your actions are what predict your fate'."









In contrast, Natalie stated, "Yes I have heard of it but I don't believe in it as far as a

relationship is concerned. I feel that a relationship and having a child is something that

you can make happen and it doesn't just happen to you without you controlling it."

Similarly, Roslynne stated,

I don't think that it had anything to do with his will and I think it was fate. But
then again, it probably was his will because everything good in me that I
had kind of stepped aside to allow it to happen. So I guess it was his will to
show me what could happen. I think that God allowed me to let it happen
because I was so strict on myself.

Also, Melonie stated,

I feel that it means, if you are in God's will then things will go good but if you
are out of his will like having sex before marriage then things will be harder.
I felt that I was out of God's will at that time in my life. I believe that
everyone has a choice to be in or out of God's will.

The participants were then asked the question, "How important was God's will or

Fate in deciding to engage in unprotected sex? Were there other influences more

powerful in determining your decisions to engage in unprotected sex?"

The results were mixed for this question. Four out of ten women stated that they

felt that God's will or fate did influence their decisions. For example, Veronica stated,

I figured to be honest that if we conceive and I get pregnant and am able to
carry this child then it's meant for me to have this child because other times
he's done it and I took pregnancy tests and they were negative. So I felt like
if it's meant to be then it will be.

However, some women (n=4) stated that they felt that God's will/Fate had nothing

to do with their decisions. For example; Natalie stated, "I didn't believe that it was "fate

or God's will". I felt that I was in control. I felt that I was the most influential person/thing

in my decision to engage in unprotect/premarital sex because I made the decision."

Rylie stated, "It wasn't important at all. I wasn't really thinking about that."









In addition, 2 out of 10 women felt that their personal and family expectations that

were more powerful. Sherry stated,

Yes, love, commitment, personal choice, how I wanted my life to be--
marriage, family, commitment, trust, success, partnership. This may have
been because I came from a large family but it wasn't always "traditional"
with mother and father and children all together. So, I guess that creating
my own family and stability was more important.

Veronica stated, "Yep, we had money saved up and two cars and (enough to start

a family) things were going good then things turned bad after I got pregnant."

Themes and Processes

Key Themes Emerging from the Data

Several themes emerged from the data. First, some women's comments reflected

their thinking about their own family background and their desires for their own families.

This included a lack of parental influence in their lives, including in discussions and

decisions about sexual relationships; and women's own desires for a two parent family.

Most women (n=9) stated that they came from divorced homes, single mother homes,

or homes where a relative raised them. These women expressed a desire to have a two

parent home and therefore to try to make their relationships work after they became

pregnant, even though many of them (n=6) described their relationships with the male

partner as being rocky or changing.

The lack of religious influence was another common theme that emerged from the

data. Many women described themselves as being religious but not considering religion

as a high priority at that point in their lives. Some women (n=4) expressed the fact that

they felt that they drifted away from religion because they wanted to experience life. All

of the women felt that religion was important but that it did not play a role in influencing

their decisions to engage in unprotected and premarital sex. Another common theme









was the fact that most women (n=7) felt no pressure from their male partners to engage

in unprotected premarital sex. Instead, the women stated that either they themselves

were the ones to initiate it or that it was a mutual decision made gradually over time as

their relationships and trust grew. Two women felt that they wanted to try to please their

partners or help their relationship by engaging in unprotect sex.

Another theme was that women knew they could get pregnant but for the most

part chose to engage in unprotected sex. All of the women stated that they knew the

potential risks or outcomes that could come from engaging in unprotected sex, however,

they stated it not being a planned decision but described it as "just happening". Two of

the women felt that they made the decision while they were in a depressed and out of

control state of mind. One woman said that she felt that she consciously made a risky

decision while she was not herself. The women define the act of it "just happening" as

something that was not preplanned and something that was not well thought out.

Also the theme of being clean was very prominent. This seemed very important to

a number of women. Many women (n=5) expressed the fact that their trust, love,

commitment and the fact they trusted that their partner was monogamous and "clean"

(i.e., free from sexually transmitted diseases) was an important influence in their

decision to engage in unprotected sex. Additionally, the theme about opposition to

abortion was very important. All of the women expressed mixed feeling about being

pregnant and they all got advice from either a parent or pastor, however, they all felt

that not having an abortion was an important personal choice.

Patterns in the Data

The data from this study revealed some noteworthy patterns, some expected and

others unexpected, based on previous research on this topic. First, as expressed









above, parents seem to have little direct effect on women's decisions, as might be

expected among women in their early 20s and living independently. However, there was

little parental influence in the adolescent years either, as mothers offered little

information to their daughters about sex, contraception, and sexually transmitted

diseases; and fathers were unavailable and uninvolved in their daughter's lives. From

the study most women (n=9) stated that they had a lack of a father influence. Some of

the women (n=2) expressed the desire for a father role model in helping them make

better decisions regarding men and sex. Additionally, women reported that their own

desire for a two parent family factored in to their actions.

Along the same lines, religion played a complicated role in these women's lives.

Although religion was important before and after the pregnancy, it held little sway on

women's decisions about unprotected sex. In fact, some women were escaping or

rebelling against the constraints of traditional religious beliefs by engaging in nonmarital

sex. Sidestepping feelings of guilt invoked by traditional religious messages, these

women expressed that they were learning about and enjoying life.

However, when it came to being pregnant, the women in this sample returned to

their parents, particularly their mother, and their religious community, for support and

guidance. This was particularly true when it came to decisions about abortion; and on

this, their parents, religious leaders, and the women themselves agreed in opposing

termination of the pregnancy.

Although male partner influence was expected to exert a strong effect on

women's decisions, it appeared instead that women were knowledgeable about and

conscious of the choices they were making, and held themselves responsible for their









actions. Most felt they were in trusting, loving monogamous relationships of some

duration with "clean" partners. However, while anticipating commitment and

involvement from their partners, most women did not place the responsibility for their

sexual decisions or subsequent choices about their pregnancy on their partner.

Similarly, while an attitude of fatalism was expected to play a pivotal role, this did

not appear to be a driving force in women's decisions to have unprotected sex. This is

borne out in contrasting views of the importance of fate in their decisions. First, in

response to questions about who influenced their decisions, the majority (n=6) stated

that they were in complete control and the decisions were their own, while others

believed in God's will or fate as the key influences in their lives (n=4). For example,

Sherry said,

I felt that I was in complete control. I knew that my actions would lead to
certain consequences but I felt mature enough to have a sense of
responsibility for my actions. I had a good support and community system
so I felt very stable about my decisions and life.

Natalie stated, "Yes I have heard of it [God's will] but I don't believe in it as far as

a relationship is concerned. I feel that a relationship and having a child is something that

you can make happen and it doesn't just happen to you without you controlling it."

In contrast were the women who felt that God's will was a key influence, yet even

these women equivocate. Marina said,

"Yes, I feel that a lot of people say that things are God's will. I mean I could say

that it was God's will for me to have my son, which at the time it probably was but I still

had some kind of influence. But that lets me know that my child also has purpose

because even in the midst of my sinning, he gave me a gift because my son is a

blessing."









Roslynne stated,

I don't think that it had anything to do with His will and I think it was fate. But
then again, it probably was His will because everything good in me that I
had kind of stepped aside to allow it to happen. So I guess it was His will to
show me what could happen. I think that God allowed me to let it happen
because I was so strict on myself.

In summary, the figure 4-4 below presents these patterns in visual form. Some of

these patterns would seem to be tied to the family and community context influencing

these young women long before their sexual decision-making-their history living in a

single parent family, a strict religious upbringing contrasting marital sex as revered and

nonmarital sex as sinful, and general opposition to abortion. Others seem to be

characteristic of their own life transition, from late adolescence to young adulthood, a

time of exploring possibilities and identity. In these cases, when a decision about

unprotected sex resulted in a pregnancy, these young women were thrown into another

decision-making point about their pregnancy, and again the family and religious support

becomes more influential. Although this research did not test the relations among

variables, this figure may offer a conceptual representation of the process I observed.















Time


Family History Transition to Adulthood
& Religious Background /Emerging Adulthood
Figure 4-4. The process of decisions about unprotected sex


Family &Religious Support
Fa m ily iRcl ig io us S u p port


~P~PI~









CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

Discussion

The first section of this chapter reviews the research questions, summarizes the

findings that answer these questions, and compares the results to previous research.

The next part of this chapter reviews the theories that framed the study and discusses

the usefulness of each. The second major section is conclusions, in which I discuss the

research and practice implications of the study.

Research Questions

Research question 1: Among African American single young adult mothers, what are
the major factors that they perceive to influence their decisions to have unprotected
premarital sex?

Research question 2: Of what relative importance is each of the following influences
on African American single young adult mothers' decisions to have unprotected
premarital sex: religiosity, parental and male partner influence?

Regarding Research Question 1, the findings suggest that among these women,

perceptions of the major factors that influence their decisions are closely tied to their

developmental stage, that is, the process of transitioning to adulthood. During the earlier

adolescent years, their guardian, whether a parent or other family member, and in some

cases a person from their religious background, had a big influence over their decisions.

However, as these women matured and began to progress toward adulthood, their

decisions became less directly dependent on their parental and religious background.

In fact, as the women matured, their parental influence seemed to be present but

indirect, in the sense of having previously shaped their beliefs and behaviors through

socialization and modeling during childhood and early adolescence. However, parental

influences continue to manifest in the type of male partners and relationships that the









women choose. Additionally, these participants verbalized that they consciously decided

to move away from religious teachings in order to experience and explore more of life.

In part, their decisions were influenced by their own personal desires and expectations

for a two parent family. Additionally, the findings showed that instead of the male

partner being a controlling influence on women's decisions, the women themselves felt

in charge of their own sexual decisions. The women highlighted their male partner's role

as being a close relationship that they wanted to eventually grow into a marriage. Thus,

although many women felt that their actions were not influenced by their male partner,

the results show that there may have been an indirect influence that was centered

around her expectations for a long term relationship and traditional family with their

male partner.

Regarding Research Question 2, pertaining to the relative importance of each of

the influences on these women's decisions about unprotected sex, the findings suggest

that women consider the male partnership, as well as their own personal desires, to be

the top influences. Parental influence came in third, suggesting that decisions were

driven by what these women wanted to do and where they wanted the relationship to

progress. Furthermore, the context for this lower rating is important: Many of the women

were either raised by a relative or felt that their parents were not very active in their lives

as parents. Additionally, the women felt that their parents did not talk to them about sex,

so it would not be surprising that parents were generally not trusted confidants in such

personal decisions.

Following parental influence in importance was religion. Religion was the least

influential and important, as the women felt that at the time they became pregnant they









were not thinking about religion. Rather, this transitional period in their lives was about

setting new, wider boundaries for themselves and exploring life beyond what they had

been taught in the church. Although many of them still felt religious, they all said that

religion was less important in the time prior to the pregnancy.

Several findings that emerged from this study differ from previous research. First,

previous research found that African American women were more likely to follow the

"traditional feminine" role, in which they are submissive to their romantic male partner

and allow them to hold the authority in the relationship (Bowleg, et al., 2004).

Furthermore, other research shows that African American men tend to control sexual

decisions, such as condom use (Bowleg, et al., 2004), suggesting that they have

enormous influence not only over sexual activity, but over possible pregnancy

outcomes.

This research showed that most of the women studied made their own decisions

to engage in unprotected and premarital sex. In fact, in many cases where the couple

had a history, they made a non-verbal, yet mutual, decision to use protection less and

less as the relationship progressed; they felt they were moving toward a long-term

commitment. As discussed in reference to Research Question 1, although the influence

of the male partner may have not been direct, the results suggest that many of the

women were influenced by their expectations for a long term relationship and desires for

a traditional family and the availability of a romantic partner. In addition, the women in

this study did not show signs of assuming a traditional role when it came to making the

decision to engage in unprotected sex. Instead, many of the women said that they were

equally in control of the sexual decisions that were made in their relationship. At the









same time, some stayed in what they viewed as "rocky" relationships because they

wanted their relationship to work.

Previous research has underscored the importance of parental influence on sexual

decision making, particularly during adolescence. One of the most important and

consistent findings has been that parents can be influential in reducing risk of negative

outcomes such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, by having

a continuous and open line of communication with their children, especially mothers

with their daughters (Hutchinson, 2002). Additionally, Hutchinson (2002), found that

mother and daughter communication is much more influential than peer communication

in delaying the initiation of sex and in shaping adolescent daughters' views on sex.

Also, although Hutchinson (2002) did not find a significant father influence on delayed

sexual initiation and values, the author does not negate others' findings that fathers play

a powerful role in decreasing sexual risks by providing insights on the way men think,

and by offering a more broad ranging conversation on topics related to sex and

relationships.

Although this research did not explore participants' sexual behavior in their

adolescent years, these women reported that little if any parental communication

regarding sex had taken place during their adolescence. In many cases, participants

were raised by a single mother or guardian, and as Cornelius (2009) observed, the

effects of single parenthood could weigh significantly on communication during

adolescence if parents were unable to spend time with the child or felt uncomfortable

discussing sexual topics. Additionally, the majority of these women, n=9, were raised

without a father's regular presence in their lives. The study findings suggest that, at









least for the women in this study, the lack of parental communication about sex,

especially between mothers and daughters, coupled with a lack of a father presence,

could have led to unprotected sex and, as a result, an unintended pregnancy. Further

research is needed to clarify these possible linkages.

The findings with regard to the influence of religion generally support recent

observations about the changing importance of the church in African American women's

lives. African American women of all ages are more religious than African American

men; and are more likely to identify themselves as having a close relationship with God,

being religious, and belonging to a church when compared to men (Orzorak, 1996).

Furthermore, religion also plays an important role in the lives of African American single

mothers by being a source of answers to prayer, as well as providing emotional and

moral support and a feeling of belonging to a supportive church "family" (Mattis &

Jagers, 2001). However, because many African Americans have changed their ways of

life, the African American church consequently does not hold the same power and

influence that it once had (Hunt & Hunt, 2001). The findings from this study show that

most of these women identified themselves as being religious; yet, none of them viewed

the church as playing a role in educating them on sexual activity. Instead, many of the

women found themselves leaving the church in order to explore who they were apart

from the church, and made their own decisions about sex. Consistent with the literature

(Hunt & Hunt, 2001), many of these women rated the church at the bottom of

influences, indicating that the church did not hold a significant role in their lives before

the pregnancy. However, after they became single mothers, many of them tended to

seek out the church once again as a source of support. The beliefs of the African









American church in regards to premarital sex may represent traditional Christian beliefs;

however, even after an extensive search, research specifically addressing this issue

could not be located.

Theoretical Perspectives

This study employed three theoretical perspectives, symbolic interactionism,

fatalism, and social exchange, to frame the research questions and approach.

According to symbolic interactionism, a person's motives are constructed from the

meanings available to them and relevance to the situations in their environment; these

meanings become visible through social interactions (White & Klein, 2002). Also, the

"family context is important because the family socializes the individual and is integral in

helping the person create meanings and verification for their life and actions" (White &

Klein 2002, p. 63).

The theory of symbolic interactionism appears to be relevant in that findings

showed that many of these women's perceptions and motives were shaped by their

family surroundings, specifically a lack of parental involvement and communication

about sex, and poor parental examples of sexual relationships. Furthermore, some

women (n=3) stated that they chose male partners based on what they grew up around.

Thus, this theory provides a useful framework for understanding the choices and actions

of women in this study: The meanings women assigned to the importance of a

traditional family, based on their family context, may have influenced their actions in

their own relationships.

The theory of fatalism is defined as the belief that something "bad" (e.g., death,

health outcomes) is out of an individual's control and predetermined by a "higher power"

(Borowsky, et al., 2009; Franklin, et al., 2007). This perspective seemed important









based on previous research relevant to this study population for example, findings that

adolescents' risky behaviors were predicted by a belief that they would face death in

1to7 years (Borowsky, et al., 2009). Thinking of unprotected sex as risky behavior, the

researcher wanted to see if fatalism was behind these young adult women's decisions.

As mentioned in Borowsky et al., (2009) and colleagues' research found that a

larger proportion of minorities had a fatalistic view of their personal future: 29.1% of

Native Americans, 25.7% of African Americans, 21.2% of Hispanics, 14.9% of Asians,

and 10.2% of white adolescents shared a fatalistic view. Also, other research explored

the concept of "religious fatalism," defined as an "adaptive response" to life situations

viewed as out of a person's control, especially among minorities (Neff & Hoppe, 1993,

p. 17). Moreover, although many of these women identified themselves as having a

belief in God's will and that their child had a purpose for being born, they also however,

felt as though they were in control of their decisions and actions when it came to making

the decision to engage in unprotected premarital sex. Although this study found that

some women demonstrated views that could be considered fatalistic, relative to other

influences these beliefs played a small role in their decisions to engage in unprotected

sex, and were not characteristic of most study participants.

The theory of social exchange is built on the concepts of "rationality" and "cost and

reward" (White & Klein 2002, pp. 38, 39). From this perspective, individuals are rational

in their thinking and can think through the costs and rewards of their decisions. In some

situations, individuals may have different "costs and rewards" or "motivations" that they

associate with behavior (White & Klein 2002, p. 33). The findings of this study generally

did not show processes and ways of thinking consistent with the theory. Although









several women said that they chose their own fate and decisions, they did not explain

the costs and rewards involved in making their decisions. In fact, many women stated

that their decisions were based on at-the-moment thinking instead of rational thought

and pre-planning. Although family scholars might apply the theory and view sexual

activity as a short term reward, the women in this study did not articulate their decisions

or their resulting pregnancy in terms of rewards or costs. Rather, they elaborated on the

meanings and circumstances surrounding their immediate actions-love, commitment,

and having a clean and monogamous partner-responses consistent with symbolic

interactionism rather than social exchange.

A perspective that was not included among the three original theories, but seems

to be relevant and was implicit in Figure 4-4, is the theory of transition to adulthood or

emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000, 2007). Arnett (2000) proposed that emerging

adulthood is an independent life stage. Arnett (2000) defines emerging adulthood as

being an unstructured period in time composed of five unique elements: "it is the age of

identity explorations, the age of instability, the self-focused age, the age of feeling in-

between, and the age of possibilities" (p.69). This concept of development is very

relevant to this study in that many of the young women were in a stage where they were

starting to make adult decisions for their futures and they felt that they were adults.

However, many of these women were also transitioning from leaving their parents or

guardians, as well as religious settings, to make their own choices and life decisions.

Several participants identified their lives at the time of their decisions as a time where

they were trying to find out who they were. Also, several of the women felt that they

were seeking out their own plans for a future family.









Limitations

There are several limitations to this study. First, this research only entailed a small

sample of African American single mothers who had experienced non-marital

pregnancy and birth. Because there was no comparison group, no conclusions can be

reached about how these mothers differed from young women who decided to terminate

their pregnancy. Additionally, the majority of women in the sample had been educated

beyond high school and may be different from other single mothers without any college

education. Consequently, the experiences of this group of individuals cannot be

generalized to all African American single young adult mothers. However,

generalizability was not the purpose of the research. Rather, this study was aimed at

trying to understand and explore the topic of unprotected sex among African American

young adult women, and to prompt future research and discovery in relation to this

target population. Although these limitations must be recognized, the study also

revealed some interesting and surprising findings.

Conclusion

This research identified several factors that most influenced the sample of the

young adult women's decisions to have unprotected sex. Based on in-depth interviews

with 10 young adult women, I found that leaving the nest, not only of parents but also of

the church, is an important aspect of the transition into adulthood; and the role that the

"nest" plays before the transitional period is far greater an influence before or during

adolescence than during the decision process. One reason this research is important is

that an understanding of the influences on African American women's sexual decisions

during emerging adulthood may provide researchers with the necessary information on

how and when to prevent risky sexual behaviors.









Research Implications

Although this research did not explore the women's sexual behaviors in their

adolescent years, it was apparent that their trajectory toward unmarried motherhood

started before the moments they chose to have unprotected sex, probably being rooted

in their family experiences. Future research should follow women beginning during

early adolescence in order to better understand the progress and changes over time of

the influences affecting the women. Particular attention should be given to the impacts

of family structure and processes on pregnancy outcomes. Also, future studies should

explore the role and relevance of church in the African American community, particularly

when it comes to sex education, to see if churches still can be influential in the lives of

young African American women.

Practice Implications

The findings of this research suggest that useful interventions and programs would

be aimed at decreasing not only risky sexual behaviors and negative outcomes, but also

at increasing the sex education that many women may be lacking in the home, school,

church, and community. Other research indicates that parental communication about

sex and sexually transmitted diseases has decreased in recent years, possibly because

these issues are not as visible in schools and communities (Robert & Sonenstein,

2010). These findings also suggest that mother-daughter and perhaps father-daughter

communication could be strengthened to help young women avoid unwanted

pregnancy. Interventions and programs should not only be aimed at women but also at

their partners, in order to help them understand their roles in decision making and their

future roles as fathers.









Along with health education, parents and African American churches should be

equipped with the knowledge and tools of not only what is going on in their homes and

churches, but also how to prevent or create interventions. For example, sex education

programs offered by churches that go beyond abstinence and understand that

educating adolescents about sexual decisions doesn't mean condoning sex before

marriage. It would be useful for churches to not only teach abstinence but also the

potential negative outcomes of unprotected sex, the statistics for nonmarital births and

sexually transmitted diseases in their community. Moreover, since churches have a

great potential to play such a pivotal role in the lives of African American women, their

access and power could well be used to educate young women on how to make good

choices that reduce risk of early unplanned pregnancy and disease. This research also

found that parental and religious influences were perceived as most important earlier in

the lives of these women, gradually declined in importance in young adulthood, and

rose again after pregnancy. Helping families to create strong bonds early in life and to

open up communication about sex in late childhood/early adolescence, could be

especially beneficial in reducing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease risks

during emerging adulthood.

In conclusion, it is important that parents and churches discuss healthy sexual

decisions with teenagers and young adults. As these results suggest, during the

transition to young adulthood, women start to make their own life choices based on their

own personal desires. Future research is needed to explore African American women

with similar backgrounds who prevented pregnancy, and identify why and how their life

trajectories differ. Also, future research is needed to explore perceptions of control









among young adult women. The results could be beneficial in showing successful

prevention or intervention techniques and programs as well as target groups for

prevention program efforts.









APPENDIX
INTERVIEW GUIDE

Interviewer introduce yourself: Name, Title
Go over Confidentiality document
State the following: If you are uncomfortable with answering a particular question, you
can always refuse to answer for any reason.
State Role as Interviewer:
Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. As we go through the
interview I will also be writing down notes and taping our interview. As
stated on your confidentiality documents, everything discussed during our
time together will remain confidential. There are no right or wrong answers,
so please just answer whatever your thoughts are. Lastly, this meeting will
take approximately an hour of your time."

Let's get started. Tell me a little bit about your child!

Probe: Is there anything else that you want to add?

How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?






How are things going now that you are a mother?



Now I'm going to ask a few questions about factors that may have influenced your
decisions about your intimate relationships.
Describe intimate relationships (baby's father).

Parental Influence:

1. Thinking back to the time that you got pregnant, what influence did your mother
and/or father have on your decisions about your intimate relationship?









Probes:


a. How would you describe the quality of your relationship with your mother
and/or father at the time you got pregnant?










b. Did you feel that your mother/father influenced your decisions about your
intimate (significant other) or the things that went on in your intimate
relationships?









Probe: Is there anything else that you would like to add about your mother
or how your father affected your intimate relationships?







c. How important was your mother's and father's influence in your decisions
about your intimate relationships?









2. How about once you became pregnant, did your mother/father influence your
decision about having your baby?




Male Partner Influence:

Now there are a few questions about your relationship with the baby's father.


3. Please tell me about your relationship at the time you got pregnant?







Probe: How close were you with the father of the baby at the time?







4. What was important to you about your intimate relationship with the baby's father
at that time?








5. (ask very gently) Can you explain to me how you got pregnant? Was it a
decision that you made together?









Possible probe: If not, then what were the reasons that you and your partner had for
having unprotected sex?



6. How important was your partner's influence in deciding to engage in unprotected
sex?




Religion:

Now I'm going to ask you a few questions about religion.

7. How important is religion in your life?





8. Would you consider yourself to be "religious"? Please explain.


9. How often do you attend church? What activities do you participate in at your
church?


Now, thinking back on your religious involvement at the time you got pregnant...

10. Did your religious beliefs affect your decisions about sexual intimacy?



Probe: If yes, then how so?



11. How important was religion in your life?










12. How important was religion in making a decision about your pregnancy? [Probes:
for example, Did you talk to your pastor or church family? Get help from members of
your congregation?]

Thinking more generally now...

Do you feel that religion is more influential in certain areas of your life? (e.g., more
influential in school than in determining who to date) In what areas does religion have
the biggest influence?






Ranking and Rating of influences

13. Please rank the following in order from most influential to least influential in their
importance to your decisions about sexual intimacy: parental influence, male partner
influence, and religious influence. One is the most influential and three is the least
influential (Note: researcher, give them a sheet with the ranking listed)

Item Rank (influential)-Order (1-3) 1-most
influential, 2-somewhat influential, 3-not
influential
Parental Influence
Male Partner Influence
Religious Influence
Other (specify)


14. Please tell me about your ranking.









15. Please rate the strength of the importance of each of the following on your
decisions about sexual intimacy on a scale of (1-4) with 1 being not important at all, 2-
somewhat not important, 3-somewhat important, and 4-very important. If there is some
other influence that is also important, please identify and rate that influence. (Note:
researcher, give them a sheet with the ranking listed)

Item Rating of importance
Parental Influence
Male Partner Influence
Religious Influence
Other

16. Please tell me about your rating. ( go through the above one-by-one to help her
explain.


Outlook/Worldview:
Now there are a few questions about how things were going for you at the time you got
pregnant.

17. How were things going in your life at the time?







18. Did you feel you were personally in control of things that were happening at the
time? How much control did you feel you had? (Allow to respond fully)





19. Thinking about your intimate relationship, did you feel that whatever outcome that
came about (pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease) was meant to happen regardless
of whether or not you used protection?

20. Have you ever heard of "God's will" or "fate"? What does this mean to you?









21. If you have heard of this phrase, how important was God's will or Fate in deciding to
engage in unprotected sex? Were there other influences more powerful in determining
your decisions to engage in unprotected sex? (Probe: what were these? Probe: your
own decisions, friends, etc)


Demographic Information

22. What is your age? _
23. How many children do you have?
24. What is the highest level of education you have completed?
SNot Completed High School
__ High School or high school equivalent
SSome College (AA or other degree)
Bachelors
SGraduate school or Higher

25. Please describe your current living situation (living alone, with a parent or
parents, living with a partner [father of the child?]).



26. Are you currently employed?
SYes (at what type of work, how many hours per week?)
No

27. Which of the following categories best describes your 2008 total household
income from all sources before taxes?
a. Under $4,999
b. $5,000 to $9,999
c. $10,000 to $14,999
d. $15,000 to $19,999
e. $20,000 to $24,999
f. $25,000 to $29,999
g. $30,000 to $34,999
h. $35,000 to $39,999
i. $40,000 to $45,999
j. $46,000 to $49,999
k. $50,000 to $54.999
I. $55,000 to $59,999
k. $60.000 to $69,999
I. $70,000 or greater









Closing:


Thank you very much for your time today. I appreciate your honesty and openness and
for participating in my research. Your information is very important to the study. Please
remember that all information will be kept confidential. As a reminder, your information
will be assigned a code number. The list connecting your name to this number will be
stored in a locked file in my faculty supervisor's office and will be destroyed after this
research is complete. Is it ok that I send you a follow up email? This email will be a brief
summary of what we discussed and I want to send it to you so that you can make sure
that I captured the right information and that there weren't any misunderstandings. At
that time, please feel free to clarify any points you think I need to know. Also, is it ok if I
contact you if I need to ask you any additional questions?

Initial below
SYes, ok to email or call.
Email address: Phone Number:
No, not ok to email or call
_Yes, ok to contact with additional questions
No, not ok to contact with additional questions

(Verbal assent on audiotape)
Information to Counseling Centers:
If you are a UF student: To schedule an appointment with one of the counselors at the
Counseling Center at the University of Florida either stop by the Counseling Center, on
the 3rd floor of Peabody Hall, or call (352) 392-1575.
Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc: 4300 SW 13th Street Gainesville, FL 32608;
Toll Free: 1-800-330-5615 or Local: (352) 374-5600


Thank you again for your time and I will be sending out that email within the next week.









LIST OF REFERENCES


Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: The theory of development from late teens
through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469-480.

Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for? Child
Development Perspectives, 1, 68-73.

Borowski, I. W., Marjorie I., & Michael D. R. (2009). Health status and behavioral
outcomes for youth who anticipate a high likelihood of early death. Pediatrics: The
Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 124, 81-88.

Bowleg, L., Lucas, K. J., & Tschann, J. M. (2004). "The ball was always in his court": An
exploratory analysis of relationship scripts, sexual scripts, and condom use among
African American women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 70-82.

Bryman, A., (2004). Social research methods (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford.

Carmen. S. (2008). Non-marital Childbearing: Trends, Reasons, and Public Policy
Interventions. CRS report for congress. 1-61.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Births: Final data 2006. (National
Vital Statistics Report 57). Retrieved from CDC website:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/unmarry.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Cases of HIV infection and AIDS in
the United States, by race/ethnicity, 2000-2004. (HIV/AIDS Surveillance
Supplemental Report 2006 12, 1-36). Department of Health and Human Services
Retrieved from CDC website:
http://www.nmcphc.med.navy.mil/downloads/sexual health/HIV women.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Births: Preliminary Data for 2007.
(National Vital Statistics Reports). Retrieved from CDC website:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57 12.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). Sexually Transmitted Disease
Surveillance 2007. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from
CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats07/Surv2007FINAL.pdf

Chapin, J. (2001). It won't happen to me: The role of optimistic bias in African American
teens' risky sexual practices. Howard Journal of Communications, 12, 49-59.

Chatters, L. M., Taylor, R. J., Bullard, K. M., & Jackson, J. S. (2008). Spirituality and
subjective religiosity among African Americans, Caribbean blacks, and non-
Hispanic whites. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47, 725-737.









Congressional Research Service. (2008). Non-marital Childbearing: Trends, Reasons,
and Public Policy Interventions. Retrieved from CRS website:
http://www.fas.org/sqp/crs/misc/RL34756.pdf

Cornelius, J. B. (2009). The birds, the bees, and the Bible: Single African American
mothers' perceptions of a faith-based sexuality education program. Journal of
Cultural Diversity, 16, 21-25.

de Vaus, D. (2001). Research design in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Publications.

Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage Publications.

Fergus, S., Zimmerman, M. A., & Caldwell, C. H. (2007). Growth trajectories of sexual
risk behavior in adolescence and young adulthood. American Journal of Public
Health, 97, 1096-1101.

Fossey, E., Harvey, C., McDermott, F., & Davidson, L. (2002). Understanding and
evaluating qualitative research. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry,
American Journal of Health Behavior, 36, 717-732.

Fortenberry, J. D. (2009). Beyond validity and reliability: Meaning-in-context of
adolescents' self-reports of sexual behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44,
199-200.

Franklin, M. D., Schlundt, D. C., McClellan, L. H., Kinebrew, T., Sheats, J., Belue,
R.,... Hargreaves, M. (2007). Religious fatalism and its association with health
behaviors and outcomes. American Journal of Health Behavior, 31, 563-572.

Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K.
Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp.105-117).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hamilton, B. E., Martin, A., & Ventura V. S. (2009). Births: Preliminary Data for 2007.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Vital Statistics Reports, 57,
1-23.

Hunt, M. O., & Hunt, L. L. (2000). Regional religions?: Extending the "Semi-involuntary"
thesis of African-American religious participation. Sociological Forum, 15, 569-594.

Hutchinson, K. (2002). The influence of sexual risk communication between parents and
daughters on sexual risk behaviors. Family Relations, 51, 238-247.

Krueger R. A. (1994) Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.









Lindberg, L. D., & Singh, S. (2008). Sexual behavior of single adult American women.
Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 40, 27-33.

Mattis, J. S., & Jagers, R. J. (2001). A relational framework for the study of religiosity
and spirituality in the lives of African Americans. Journal of Community
Psychology, 29, 519-539.

MacKay, A. P., & Duran, C. (2007). Adolescent Health in the United States, 2007.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics.
Retrieved from CDC website:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/misc/adolescent2007.pdf

Neff, J. A., & Hoppe, S. K. (1993). Race/Ethnicity, acculturation, and psychological
distress: Fatalism and religiosity as cultural resources. Journal of Community
Psychology, 21, 3-20.

Ozorak, E. W. (1996). The power, but not the glory: How women empower themselves
through religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 35, 17.

Powe, B. D. (1997). Cancer fatalism-Spiritual perspectives. Journal of Religion &
Health, 36, 135.

Rabiee, F. (2004). Focus-group interview and data analysis. Proceedings of the
Nutrition Society, 63, 655-660.

Robert, A. C. & Sonenstein, F. L. (2010). Adolescents' reports of communication with
their parents about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control: 1988, 1995,
and 2002. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46, 532-537.

Robinson, B. E., Scheltema, K., & Cherry, T. (2005). Risky sexual behavior in low-
income African American women: The impact of sexual health variables. Journal
of Sex Research, 42, 224-237.

Ventura, S. (2009). Changing patterns of nonmarital childbearing in the United States.
Center for Disease and Prevention NCHS Data Brief 18. Retrieved from CDC
website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/dbl8.pdf

White, J., & Klein, D. (2002). Family Theories: Understanding Control families (2nd ed.).
California: Sage Publications.

Whittemore, R., Chase, S.K. & Mandle, C.L. (2001) Validity in qualitative research.
Qualitative Health Research, 11, 522-537.









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Phedra Smith was born in Pensacola, Florida. Her family includes her husband:

Patrick Smith, her parents: Felisha and Larry Young, and her younger sibling: Lawrence

Young. Phedra grew up with a large extended family and a very close church family

where volunteering and helping families and youth in need was ingrained in her heart.

This led to Phedra's interests and study in Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

As an undergraduate, Phedra attended the University of Florida because of its

strong history and diversity in many areas of studies. She graduated with a Bachelor of

Science from the Department of Family, Youth & Community Sciences. Her

undergraduate experience and her post educational professional experience prompted

her to continue her education with a Master of Science in Family, Youth & Community

Sciences. Phedra plans to seek out career opportunities that will allow her to continue

her education and use her knowledge to help those in need.





PAGE 1

1 INFLUENCES ON AFRICAN AMERICAN SINGLE YOUNG ADULT WOMENS DECISIONS ABOUT ENGAGING IN UNPROTECTED PREMARITAL SEX: RELIGIOSITY PARENTAL INFLUENCE AND MALE PARTNER INFLUENCE By PHEDRA SMITH A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUAT E SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF SCIENCE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2010

PAGE 2

2 2010 Phedra Smith

PAGE 3

3 To my husband and my parents, who have been constant s upporters

PAGE 4

4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank my husband for everything; I dont know how I would have been able to make it without him. I thank my parents for their constant faith and support and my little brother for being a role model for his big sister in showing me how to stick it out even when it gets hard. I thank my family as a whole, they have always been positive, loving and supportive and I couldnt have asked for a better family. I would like to thank my entire committee for always being available to talk me through my stress or confusion and to give me words of support and guidance for life, career plans and being encouraging throughout this entire thesis process.

PAGE 5

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................. 4 LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................ 7 LIST OF FIGURES .......................................................................................................... 8 ABSTRACT ..................................................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................... 11 Purpose of Study .................................................................................................... 13 Research Questions ............................................................................................... 14 Definition of Terms .................................................................................................. 14 Significance of Study .............................................................................................. 15 Summary ................................................................................................................ 15 2 LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................................................... 17 Overview ................................................................................................................. 17 Sexual Activity among African American Adolescents and Young Adults ............... 17 Religiosity ............................................................................................................... 19 Adolescents and Young Adults Sexual Behaviors and Religion ............................ 22 African American Women and Religion .................................................................. 22 Parent Influence ...................................................................................................... 23 Male Partner Influence ............................................................................................ 25 Theoretical Perspectives ......................................................................................... 26 Symbolic Interactionism .................................................................................... 26 Fatalism ............................................................................................................ 27 Social Exchange Theory ................................................................................... 29 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ............................................................................... 31 Introduction ............................................................................................................. 31 Research Design .................................................................................................... 31 Qualitative Research ............................................................................................... 32 Sample Selection .................................................................................................... 34 Instrumentation ....................................................................................................... 34 Data Collection ....................................................................................................... 34 Data Processing and Analysis ................................................................................ 35

PAGE 6

6 4 RESULTS ............................................................................................................... 39 Demographic Characteristics .................................................................................. 39 Reactions to Pregnanc y and Being a Mother .......................................................... 41 Influences on Decisions about Unprotected Sex .................................................... 43 Parental Influence ............................................................................................ 43 Male Partner Influence ..................................................................................... 47 Influence of Religion ......................................................................................... 53 Relative Importance of Each Influence ................................................................... 56 Rank Ordering of Influences ............................................................................. 56 Rating of Influences .......................................................................................... 57 Outlook/Worldv iew (Fatalism) ........................................................................... 59 Themes and Processes .......................................................................................... 63 Key Themes Emerging from the Data .............................................................. 63 Patterns in the Data .......................................................................................... 64 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ........................................................................ 69 Discussion .............................................................................................................. 69 Research Questions ............................................................................................... 69 Theoretical Perspectives .................................................................................. 74 Limitations ........................................................................................................ 77 Conclusion .............................................................................................................. 77 Research Implications ...................................................................................... 78 Practice Implications ........................................................................................ 78 APPENDIX: INTERVIEW GUIDE .................................................................................. 81 LIST OF REFERENCES ............................................................................................... 89 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................................................ 92

PAGE 7

7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 4 1 Summary of education level of participants. ....................................................... 40 4 2 Summary of participants household inc ome. ..................................................... 41 4 4 Ranking of influences on decision making. ......................................................... 56 4 5 Rating of importance of each influence on decision making. .............................. 58

PAGE 8

8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 4 1 Distribution of participants by number of children between 14. ......................... 40 4 2 Distribution of participants by education level. .................................................... 40 4 3 Distribution of participants by household income. ............................................... 41 4 4 The process of decisions about unprotected sex ................................................ 68

PAGE 9

9 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Sci ence INFLUENCES ON AFRICAN AMERICAN SINGLE YOUNG ADULT WOMENS DECISIONS ABOUT ENGAGING IN UNPROTECTED PREMARITAL SEX: PARENTAL INFLUENCE, RELIGIOSITY, AND MALE PARTNER INFLUENCE By Phedra Smith August 2010 Chair: Suzanna Smith Major: Family, Youth and Community Sciences This research explored the factors that impact African American single young adult womens decisions about unprotected sexual activity, and their views about the importance of parental influence, male partner influence, and religiosit y. Indepth semi structured interviews were conducted with 10 women ages 1924, who had a live nonmarital birth in the past 5 years. This study was guided by two research questions as well as theories of symbolic interactionism and social exchange and the concept of fatalism, with an emphasis on understanding womens own views and the meaning or reasons they assigned to their decisions. Results indicated that women were motivated by love and closeness, an expectation of a long term partnership, desires for a traditional twoparent family and for self fulfillment. Furthermore, results show that parental influence and religion were not influential at the time of the decision about unprotected sex, but became more important during the pregnancy and after child birth. The findings suggest that for these women, a decision making process about relationships, unprotected sex, and pregnancy can be viewed as part of an overall transition to adulthood. Although the study is limited by the small sample size, indepth interviews revealed insights about the study group that can serve as a springboard for further research.

PAGE 10

10 As explained in the Discussion Section, further research is needed, particularly with regard to parent adolescent communication about sex, birth control and sexually transmitted diseases. Another area of future research of importance to the African American community is the role of the church in educating young adults about these matters. In addition, implications of findings for targeted intervention and prevention programs are discussed. The findings suggest that the useful interventions and programs would be aimed at decreasing not only risky sexual behaviors and negative outcomes, but also at increasing the sex educat ion in homes, schools, churches an d the community.

PAGE 11

11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION The recent increase in unmarried births (CDC, 2009) has drawn attention to the prevalence of sexual activity among young women (Ventura, 2009). In 2009, the centers for disease control and prevention reporte d that the percentage of births among all unmarried women had increased from 38.5% in 2006 to 39.7% in 2007; and 60% of those births were to unmarried women between the ages of 2024. Moreover, African American unmarried women had 71.6% of births in 2007 ( Hamilton, Martin, and Ventura, 2009) African American w omen are also at greater risk for s exually transmitted infections in comparison to White women. Research from the centers for disease control and prevention sexually transmitted disease surveillance report (2007) highlights the fact that African Americans represented 70% of reported gonorrhea cases, 48 percent chlamydia and 46 percent of syphilis cases. Furthermore, in 2004, human immunodeficiency virus was the leading cause of death for African Amer ican women aged 25 34 years (CDC STD surveillance report, 2007). African American women appear to be at greater risk of pregnancy due to lower rates of contraceptive use. According to the centers for disease control and prevention, 90% of white adolesc ent females use contraceptives compared to 75% of African American female adolescent women us e contraceptives (MacKay & Duran, 2007) Interestingly, in a study of 847 mostly African American adolescents that were followed for 8 years into young adulthood, Fergus, Zimmerman & Caldwell (2007) found that African American high school students were found to be more likely to have had sexual intercourse and to report a greater number of sexual partners than white

PAGE 12

12 students. Furthermore, since the outcomes of adol escents sexual decisions tend to manifest themselves during their young adult years (Fergus, et al. 2007), more young adults, specifically African American single young adults, tend to be at risk of unplanned pregnancy, unplanned births, and sexually tra nsmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (Lindberg & Singh, 2008). Additionall y, when compared to other ethnic groups, African American women are more likely to be single mothers (Carmen, 2008). These facts point to the need for more research on womens sexual and reproduc tive lives in order to mor e effectively serve them with needed information about reproductive health However, very little research effort has gone towards examining and understanding the sexual behaviors of single adult women between the ages of 2044 (Lindberg & Singh, 2008). At first glance, these changes in unmarried birth rates appear paradoxical to the importance of the African American church in the African American community and its history as a moral guide with teachings about sexual activity and family relationships. Indeed, religion and spirituality have long had a significant role in the African American community, according to Mattis and Jagers (2001) review of literature. Within the African American comm u nity, churches have used religious and spiritual beliefs as a source of elevation for those who are lonely and need to connect with a family; also the church teaches ethical responsibili ties pertaining to society and African American community (Mattis & Ja gers, 2001). The African American church is a powerful tool of education for this group of individuals because they have access to individuals that are normally overlooked (Cornelius, 2009). Religion and are also associated with good

PAGE 13

13 health and happiness, and are protective factors for negative behaviors and outcomes among adolescents (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). African American women have historically been noted as more likely to be religiously affiliated and active at an earlier age the n African American m en (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). As a source of emotional and spiritual support, the church has provided unmarried women and single mothers with a supportive and moral foundation (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Although religion plays a role in the lives of African Americans and single mothers (Mattis & Jagers, 2001), other seldom addressed factors may also play a role in decisions regarding unprotected sexual activity. R esearch studies (Bowleg, Lucas & Tschann, 2004; Robinson, Scheltema & Cherry, 2005) show that mens preferences for unprotected sex have a strong influence on womens behavior. In addition, a substantial body of literature (Hutchinson, 2002) shows that parents play a major role in influencing adolescents decisions regarding sexual activity. Purpose of Study The pur pose of this study is to explore the factors that impact young African American single young adult womens decisions about unprotected sexual activity particular ly the importance of the following factors from the viewpoint of women them selves: parental influence, male partner influence and religiosity. This study will also utilize the theory of symbolic i nteractionism, the concept of Fatalism, and the theory of social e xchange to try to explore the meaning or reasons behind these women s decisions.

PAGE 14

14 Research Questions Research question 1: Among African American single young adult mothers, what are the major factors that they perceive to influence their decisions to have unprotected premarital sex? Research question 2: Of what relative im portance is each of the following influences on African American single young adult mothers decisions to have unprotected premarital sex: religiosity, parental and male partner influence? Definition of Terms Fatalism Fatalism is the belief that someth ing terrible (e.g., death, poor health) is out of an individual s control and predetermined by God or something greater than themselves (Borowsky, Ireland & Resnick, 2009; Franklin, et al. 2007). Important for this study, fatalism is a possible perspectiv e that can help to better understand the meaning and attitude towards unprotected premarital sex. Male Partner Influenc e on Sexual Decision Making Male partner influence is another term to describe a gender script where males control the relationship (Bowleg, Lucas & Tschann, 2004). This study focuses on male partner influence on sexual decision making. Parent Influence on Sexual Decision Making Parental influence is defined as a parents ability to use their moral outlook and interpersonal communic ation as a way to motivate their adolescents decisions (Hutchinson, 2002). F or the purpose of this study, this concept is also used to describe the young adult years and consider the young adults perception of the importance of at least one parents infl uence on decisions regarding unprotected premarital sex during adolescence and young adult years.

PAGE 15

15 Religiosity The concept of religiosity is defined as someones agreement to follow the traditions and beliefs by participation in and affiliation with a religious congregation. (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Significance of Study This study will focus on a very important issue with lasting consequences for the health of African American young adults. Indeed, experts (Lindberg & Singh, 2008) call for a new emp hasis on understanding the current reality of what is going on in unmarried womens sexual patterns, marital status and reproductive practices and needs. Because the goal is to try to understand the influences that affect sexual decision making and resul ting risk behaviors, the study will have implications for positive intervention and/or prevention methods and services for adolescent and young adult women contemplating premarital sex. Summary According to national data, African American single young a dult women are statistically more likely than white women to experience unprotected premarital sex and to bear the conseque nces of risky sexual outcomes. African American single young adults tend to be at greater risk of unplanned pregnancy, unplanned birt hs and sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (Lindberg & Singh, 2008). Also, African American women in their early twenties are more likely to be single mothers (Carmen, 2008). Therefore, there is an increased need for more research to better understand womens sexual and reproductive lives in order to more effectively serve their needs (Lindberg & Singh, 2008).

PAGE 16

16 A better understanding of the influences on young womens sexual decisions could provide important information t o educators, policy makers, and parents seeking to educate young women about the consequences of risky sexual behaviors. These findings may also help African American women themselves to recognize the influences on their behaviors and examine what this mea ns for their own health. Further research, intervention and prevention programs could enhance the lives of African American families, churches, relationships and overall health of this population.

PAGE 17

17 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Overview This literatur e review begins with an overview of the prevalence of sexual activity, unplanned pregnancy, unplanned births and sexually transmitted diseases among young adults, particularly African American young women. The review continues with an overview of the documented influences on adolescent and young sexual decision making: religion, including the possible linkages between adolescent and young adults sexual behaviors and religion, and the history of African American women in religion; parental influence on adolescent and young adult sexual behaviors; and male partner influence. In the final section, the theor etical perspectives of fatalism, symbolic interactionism and social exchange are explored in the context of this study. Sexual Activity among African Amer ican Adolescents and Young Adults African American adolescents, regardless of gender, are younger at the time of first sexual intercourse compared to Latin American or European American adolescents (Chapin, 2001) Fergus, et al. 2007). In fact, Fergus, and colleagues (2007), found that African American high school students were more likely to be sexually active and have the greatest number of sexual partners relative to other ethnic groups when compared with white students. Since the outcomes of adolesc ents sexual decisions tend to manifest themselves during their young adult years (Fergus, et al. 2007) more young adults, specifically African American single young adults, tend to be at risk of unplanned pregnancy, unplanned births and sexually transmi tted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (Lindberg & Singh, 2008).

PAGE 18

18 According to Chapin (2001), the trend in the overall percentage of adolescents that were unmarried at the time of their first intercourse has continued to rise since the 1950 s, from under 60% in 1955 to 95% in the mid 80s for both genders (p. 2) According to Carmen (2008), African American women in their early twenties, when compared to any other ethnic group are more likely to be single mothers. Additionally, African Ameri can unmarried women had 71.6% of births in 2007 and 60% of births were from young adult unmarried women between the ages of 20 24 (Hamilton, et al. 2009). Studies have shown that multiple partnerships are more likely to occur in unmarried relationships and that these relationships are primary markers for contracting human immunodeficiency virus in heterosexual relationships (Robinson, et al. 2005). Data show s that in 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available) human immunodeficiency virus w as the leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 2534 (CDC STD surveillance report, 2007). Because young adulthood is defined as being a time between the ages 1825 when young people begin to take on alternate identi ty roles and relationships, their sexual behaviors tend to deviate from their adolescent identities (Fergus, et al. 2007) R esearchers have been called to pay attention to adolescent sexuality as it develops though young adulthood (Fortenberry, 2007). In addition, the outcomes of risky sexual decisions made during adolescent years tend to manifest during the ages of 1825 in the forms of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies (Fergus et al. 2007). F urthermore, African American single young w omen are the leaders among other ethnic groups to report cases of sexually transmitted diseases, more attention is

PAGE 19

19 needed to understand and lessen the overall sexual risks of this group (Hutchinson, 2002). Religiosity Mattis and Jagger (2001) define rel igion as a combination of traditions and beliefs, pertaining to a God or gods, shared by a group of people. The concept of religiosity is defined as someones agreement to follow the traditions and beliefs by participation in and affiliation with a religious congregation. Similarly, Chatters, Taylor, Bullard and Jackson (2008), define religion as being orientated and aimed towards the community and formed to promote a sense of belonging for people with common beliefs and traditions in an effort to help the m to obtain a closer relationship with God. According to Thornton (1985), religion is still a very influential part of many peoples lives today, regardless of the fact that there have been changes in moral authority and the relationship between churches and individuals (p. 385). For instance, people have been progressively moving towards an emphasis on the formation of their own religious commitments and beliefs and away from obeying traditional beliefs based only on loyalty and obligation (Thornton, 1985, p. 385). Furthermore, in a study looking at traditional Christian beliefs and beliefs on premarital sex, it was found that there was a decrease in the amount of people that believe that it is wrong to engage in sex before marriage (Pertersen & Donnenwerth, 1997). In fact, frequent church attendance did not change the fact that people are moving towards a belief in letting their conscience guide them in their beliefs about premarital sex and other religious doctrine (Pertersen & Donnenwerth, 1997). In addition, individuals have started to use religion more for its personal meaning and less for its doctrine which has consequently been proven by

PAGE 20

20 the new and more confident feelings in their ability to set their own rules and traditions that defi ne their beliefs and (Thornton, 1985, p. 385). This change has particular relevance to the study of premarital sex. In the past, the church, based on traditional Christian beliefs had strict rules on abstinence until marriage and on avoiding the use of co ntraceptives; sanctions endorsing a twoparent family structure; and moral principles expressing opposition to abortion (Thornton, 1985). However, such moral mandates have become harder to enforce because of the increase in premarital sex, unplanned pregnancies, divorce, and abortions (Thornton, 1985). These rules affected not only congregants themselves but also church leaders who have personally experienced such issues in their own families (Thornton, 1985). Religion and spirituality have historically played a pivotal role in the African American community, and the black church is one of the most important institutions (Mattis & Jagers 2001; Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Within the African American community, churches have used their religious and spiritual bel iefs to be a source of elevation for those who are lonely and need to connect with others who could offer supportive kinship type relationships (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Churches have also been a primary influence in teaching individuals their ethical respo nsibilities pertaining to society and their African American community (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Additionally, Mattis and Jagers (2001), found that African American believers consider that an essential way for an individual to show he or she is a true belie ver is through their degree of religious commitment (p. 529). Hunt and Hunt (2000) concluded that although racial segregation was the reason that the African American church became such a powerful cultural presence of an overarching community (p. 587), this influence was diluted

PAGE 21

21 during migration from the rural South into more established and variant regions and urban life (p. 588). Moreover, since many African Americans have changed in their ways of life, the church consequently does not hold the same power that it once had (Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Nevertheless, it still has held its stake in being a smaller scale moral center for many African American communities and families (Hunt & Hunt, 2000, p. 590). This change has particular relevance to the study of premarital sex. In the past, the church, based on traditional Christian beliefs had strict rules on abstinence until marriage and on avoiding the use of contraceptives; sanctions endorsing a twoparent family structure; and moral principles expressing opposition to abortion (Thornton, 1985). However, such moral mandates have become harder to enforce because of the increase in premarital sex, unplanned pregnancies, divorce, and abortions (Thornton, 1985). These rules affected not only congregants themselves but also church leaders who have personally experienced such issues in their own families (Thornton, 1985). Religion and spirituality have historically played a pivotal role in the African American community, and the black church is one of the most important institutions (Mattis & Jagers 2001; Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Within the African American community, churches have used their religious and spiritual beliefs to be a source of elevation for those who are lonely and need to connect with others w ho could offer supportive kinship type relationships (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Churches have also been a primary influence in teaching individuals their ethical responsibilities pertaining to society and their African American community (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). Additionally, Mattis and Jagers (2001), found that African American believers consider that an essential way for

PAGE 22

22 an individual to show he or she is a true believer is through their degree of religious commitment (p. 529). Hunt and Hunt (2000) concluded that although racial segregation was the reason that the African American church became such a powerful cultural presence of an overarching community (p. 587), this influence was diluted during migration from the rural South into more established and variant regions and urban life (p. 588). Moreover, since many African Americans have changed in their ways of life, the church consequently does not hold the same power that it once had (Hunt & Hunt, 2000). Nevertheless, it still has held its stake in being a smaller scale moral center for many African American communities and families (Hunt & Hunt, 2000, p. 590). Adolescents and Young Adults Sexual Behaviors and Religion Adolescents may be more likely to participate in risky sexual behaviors s uch as the inconsistent use of condoms and having more than one sexual partner, at least in part because their decision making skills have not been fully developed (Fergus, et al. 2007). S tudies have shown that religion and spirituality two factors play a significant role in increasing happiness and good health, and lowering negative behaviors and outcomes (Mattis & Jagers, 2001). African American Women and Religion African American women of all ages are more likely to identify themselves as having a c lose relationship with God and being religious and bel onging to a church compared to African American men (Orzorak, 1996). Ozorak (1996) also highlights the fact that among African American women, positive emotions such as self confidence are linked to church activity and attendance. Additionally, religion and spirituality promote many positive emotions such as happiness, love, hope, peace, calm, faith,

PAGE 23

23 pride, optimism, strength, courage, confidence, trust, and forgiveness in the everyday lives of Afr ican American women, ( Mattis & Jagers 2001, p. 521). Furthermore, religion also plays an important role in the lives of unmarried women and single mothers by being a source of answers to prayer, as well as providing emotional, moral and family support ( Mattis & Jagers, 2001). In a study reviewing empirical research on the role of religion and spirituality among African Americans, Mattis and Jagers (2001) highlighted the fact that the church has historically had a more powerful influence on African Amer ican women than on the men, finding that women were more likely to have belonged to a church and participated in the church at an earlier age than men. In their review, Mattis & Jagers (2001), suggested that among most African American religious families, there is a greater emphasis placed on girls and young women being involved in churchrelated activities than is the case for young men. Mattis & Jagers (2001), suggest that gender difference in religious involvement may explain why African American women have higher levels of long term religious commitment then men. Cornelius (2009) adds that church leaders have the potential to have a powerful and even prominent educational role among African American women because of their convenient access to this group. Parent Influence A parents moral outlook and communication on the subject of sex serves as a key factor in adolescents decisions on when to initially start engaging in sexual activities, with parental communication resulting in delayed onset of sexual activity, as well as decisions about contraceptive use (Hutchinson, 2002). It is important to note that some sexual risk behaviors start in the adolescent years and carry over into young adulthood (Fergus, et al ., 2007). A lthough some of these risky behaviors among African American

PAGE 24

24 adolescents may decline as they mov e into young adulthood, the negative outcomes may still be consequential (Fergus et al ., 2007). Therefore, parents can be influential in eliminating some of these negative outcomes such as u nintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by having a continuous and open line of communication with their children, especially mothers with their daughters (Hutchinson, 2002). Hutchinson (2002), found that mother and daughter communication is much more influential than peer communication in delaying the initiation of sex and in shaping their views on sex. Interestingly, African American adolescents had high levels of parent and adolescent communication, higher than Hispanic and White adolescents (Hutchinson, 2002) Nevertheless African American adolescents and young women still remain the largest group to report cases of sexually transmitted diseases despite the parental influence and parent adolescent communication (Hutchinson, 2002). Hutchinson (2002), states that the communication about postponing sexual activity is no match for the high levels of sexual risk outcomes in the young adult African American community. Although in the study Hutchinson (2002) did not find a significant father in fluence on delayed sexual initiation and values, but reported other researchers the powerful role that fathers play in decreasing sexual risks Fathers provide insig ht on the way males think and offering a more broad range of conversations on topics of sex (Hutchinson, 2002). Moreover, the effects of single parenthood could weigh significantly on communication with adolescents, as illustrated by Cornelius (2009) research on African American single mothers and their views of faith based programs for their adolescents. M others admitted that they lacked the ability to provide sufficient supervision ( Cornelius

PAGE 25

25 2009) Furthermore, not only were they unprepared to discuss topics on sex, they were also not comfortable doing so. Overall, parental influence could be a significant influence on sexual risk behaviors taken during adolescent years and possible negative outcomes could be mitigated for the young adulthood years as well. However, based on Hutchinsons (2002) findings on parent influence on African America n young women, there may be other factors that outweigh parental influence. Male Partner Influence Male partner influence is another term to describe a gender script where males control the relationship (Bowleg et al. 2004). African American women te nd to follow the conventional female character in which they are submissive to the men in the relationships and allow them to hold the authority in the relationship (Bowleg et al. 2004). Furthermore, men tend to control sexual decisions like condom use in the relationship (Bowleg, et al. 2004), suggesting that they have enormous influence not only over sexual activity, but over possible pregnancy outcomes. In their qualitative study of 14 African American women between the ages of 2239, Bowleg, and co lleagues (2004) examined relationship and sexual scripts and found that women held low amounts of authority when it came to condom use ; m en controlled the use of condoms by being the ones to either demand or refuse condom use during sex, without negotiatio n with their partner. Interestingly, Bowleg and colleagues (2004) findings showed that women did not base their use of condoms on the risks of human immunodeficiency virus and pregnancy. Additionally, in study ing the sexual risk behaviors l ow income Afric an American women, Robinson, and colleagues (2005), found that infrequent condom use was associated with positive attitudes towards using condoms and the desire to become pregnant. In addition, the male partners desire to

PAGE 26

26 have a child was more likely to dictate the use of a condom regardless of the desires of the woman (Robinson, et al. 2005). One possible reason that male influence dominates decision making is that optimistic bias colors womens perceptions of the possible outcomes of unprotected sex. Optimistic bias is defined as the misperception of ones invincibility from the negative consequences of risky sexual behaviors (Chapin, 2001). Possibly, optimistic bias is operating among African American women who do not want to become pregnant but also desire to, and in fact are expected to, please their partner. Support for this idea comes from research conducted by Chapin (2001), who found that different ethnic groups of college students all showed signs of optimistic bias about their ability to avoid contracting human immunodeficiency virus This suggests that the use of condoms, or conversely, the frequency of unprotected sex, is better predicted by womens perception or view of their sexual risk outcomes, rather than by their actual risk outcomes (C hapin, 2001). Theoretical Perspectives For this study, symbolic interactionism, the fatalism construct, and the social exchange theory will be explored in order to try to gain a more knowledgeable and broad understanding. Because this study does not have a specific framework or theory that explains what it is or how it works, the combination of these three perspectives will be explored in order to further explain the study. Symbolic Interactionism This theory was derived from George Herbert Mead. Accordi ng to White and Klein (2002), humans are driven to create meanings to help them understand their world. A persons motives are constructed from the meanings available to them and relevant to

PAGE 27

27 the situations in their environment and they become visible by means of social interaction ( White & Klein, 2002). The family context is important because family serves as a means of extreme interaction and they are integral in helping a person create meanings and verification for their life and actions ( White & Klein 2002, p 63). It is noted that you cannot simply rely on understanding the motives and actions of people by looking at the meanings of material objects and things from strictly a physical aspect because they hold a symbolic importance ( White & Klein, 2002). Rather you have to understand the meaning behind things in order to understand the reasons behind the persons actions. Another assumption that this theory holds is the idea that individuals have minds that presupposes an individual self that perceives, reasons, senses and imagines ( White & Klein 2002, p. 64) They discuss that fact that the brain can be changed over time by a person s life experiences. Therefore, it is assumed that the mind acquires, integrates and processes information and at the same time it can reflect on its own processes which can help it develop as an actor (human being) (I) and an object (me) ( White & Klein 2002, p. 64) The authors state that according to Mead, an individuals mind is a product of society. This theory is us eful in studying and developing qualitative work because it is commonly used in studying a persons behavior or perceptions. Moreover, this theory is useful and relevant to this topic because it helps bring light to the idea that every behavior has a meani ng buried behind it. Things meanings are cultivated by a persons surrounding s, i.e., parents, church and other impactful relationships. Fatalism The perspective of fatalism has been used in many studies of patient compliance with prescribed cancer treat ments, including African American women with a fatalistic

PAGE 28

28 world view who tended not to get treatment because they believed that Gods will determined their fate (Franklin, et al., 2007). Fatalism is the belief that something bad (e.g., death, health outcomes) is out of an individuals control and predetermined by a higher power (Borowsky, et al., 2009; Franklin, et al., 2007). In the case of cancer, fatalism operates when there is an acceptance of death from cancer which hinders the individual from pursuing potenti ally stressful treatment (Powe, 1997). This perspective may be particularly relevant to African Americans, because according to some research, they are less likely to participate in or follow up with cancer screening due to cancer fatalism (P owe, 199 7 ). In a study of over 20,000 adolescents in grades 7 to 12 participating in the National Study of Longitudinal Health, Borowsky and colleagues (2009) found that adolescents risky behaviors were predicted by a belief that they would face death in 1 7 years. The results of this study showed that a larger proportion of minorities had a fatalistic view of their personal future: 29.1% of Native Americans, 25.7% of African Americans, 21.2% of Hispanics, 14.9% of Asians, and 10.2% of white adolescents shared a fatalistic view (Borowsky, et al. 2009). The researchers concluded that among the teens in this study, the higher their perceptions were of an early death, then the higher their chances of having future serious health outcomes i.e. human immunodeficiency virus (Borowsky, et al. 2009). Therefore, according to Borowsky and colleagues (2009), fatalism should be considered an important signal of possible serious health outcomes in the individuals future. Few researchers have studied religious fatalism (Franklin, et. al., 2007). Religious fatalism is a term used to identify people whose religious/spiritual practice is greatly influenced by their belief that nothing can stop God s will (Franklin, et. al., 2007).

PAGE 29

29 Neff and Hoppes (1993) study using data on 1,784 adults from different cultures examined how fatalism affects psychological distress among different cultural groups, and found that fatalism was higher among Hispanics and African Americans in comparison to white s. Also, fatalism was defined as an adaptive response to life situations viewed as out of a persons control, especially among minorities (Neff & Hoppe, 1993). In summary, numerous scholars urge further studies of the reasons for sexual risk taking among African American single young adult women because of the potential for serious and long lasting negative outcomes. Yet very little research has attempted to better understand these influences. This study focuses on our previously unaddressed influences on African American young womens decisions regarding unprotected sex: religiosity, family, male partner influence, and fatalism. The purpose of this study is to uncover whether these factors impact young womens decisions about unprotected sexual activity. Social Exchange Theory U nlike the perspective of fatalism, the theory of social exchange explores the concept of rationality and cost and reward ( White & Klein 2002, p 38, 39). Axioms of this theory oppos e fatalis tic thinking because it assumes that the individual is not b eing externally controlled but instead has the complete ability to make rational choices based on the idea of costs and rewards ( White & Klein 2002, p. 34). From this perspective, individuals have rational in their thinking and can rationally come up wi th the costs and rewards of their decisions. In some situations the individuals may have different costs and rewards or motivations that they associate with the behavior ( White & Klein 2002, p. 33). The theory of Social Exchange assumes that since

PAGE 30

30 ind ividuals are rational and are able to deduce their costs and rewards of their behaviors then they are fully aware of what repercussions if any that their behaviors will yield because their motivations will explain their behaviors ( White & Klein 2002, p. 35). However, in order to understand any actors choice as rational then we need to know what the person considers rewarding and costly ( White & Klein 2002, p. 39). This theory also explores the idea that a rational person may be will ing to inc ur some losses in order to maintain a profitable relationship ( White & Klein 2002, p. 41) and when the relationship is no longer a fair exchange then the individuals break up ( White & Klein 2002, p. 41). Exchange theory also is based on the assumption that since the actors are rational, then they are interchangeable which means that if they are given the same rewards, costs and weights, any actor would make the same choice as any other ( White & Klein 2002, p. 40). This theory is useful in understan ding this study because the individuals may be fully aware of their costs and benefits from their decisions and the idea of male partner influence and fatalism may not be accurate justifications for their behaviors. This theory allows for the idea of rati onality and cost and reward to be further examined and applied in relation to understanding these womens decisions.

PAGE 31

31 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Introduction The purpose of this research study is to determine the influences of several factors on A frican American single young adult womens decisions to have unprotected premarital sex, with a particular emphasis on understanding the role of religion in womens decisions. This chapter explains how this study was conducted, including the research desig n, sample selection, instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis. Research Design The research design of this paper is a case study. A case study is a unit (i.e., individual, family, marriages, organizations, decisions, time periods) that the res earcher is trying to collect data about and analyze in order to better understand a phenomena as a whole (de Vaus, 2001, p.220). A case study design is useful for this thesis because it will provide a more complex and fuller understanding of the whole phenomena (de Vaus, 2001, p.221), in this case, factors influencing African American single young womens decisions about unprotected sexual behaviors. A case study design is useful because it emphasizes an understanding of the whole case and seeing the case within its wider context (de Vaus, 2001, p.234) and examining parts within whole (de Vaus, 2001, p.235). The goal of this study is to understand how African American single mothers decide d to engage in unprotected sex, and also to uncover some of th e factors that may or may not play an integ ral part in their decisions. Therefore, for this study a case study design seems most appropriate.

PAGE 32

32 Qualitative Research Qualitative methods were chosen for this research because of the exploratory nature of thi s study and the compatibility of the research questions with the goals of qualitative research. Qualitative research questions aim to identify and explore communication and relationships among a particular group; to understand the meaning of attitudes and behaviors of a particular group; and to create theories by examining and understanding links and connections from the data collected (Fossey, Harvey, McDermott & Davidson, 2002). Also, broad questions, rather than specific hypotheses are used to get a deeper understanding of the phenomena under study (Fossey et al. 2 002). According to de Vaus (2001), qualitative case study designs are often viewed as lacking in the areas of internal and external validity, but careful attention to these matters at the design stage of the study can ensure necessary rigor (de Vaus, 2001, p.233). In order to have internal and external validity, the researcher must have a valid method for sampling, data collection and data analysis (Whittemore, Chase & Mandle, 2001). To i nsure internal validity the study design should clearly define the demographic characteristics of the study population, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, as well as the study variables (de Vaus, 2001, p. 28). This study preserves internal validity by clearly defining the population and variables in question. Furthermore, an expert panel composed of 4 individuals with experience and knowledge of the topic reviewed the interview questions; the researcher will modif ied the instrument according to their recommendations. The expert panel consisted of 4 African American single young adult mothers. The researcher asked each question and the members of the panel answered the questions. Although external

PAGE 33

33 validity is a major concern in quantitative research, in exploratory qualitative research such as this, which is aimed at better understanding the viewpoints of participants and the processes affecting decisions, trustworthiness is more important. One of the most important concerns is validity within the data analysis stages, which means that the researcher must be careful to uphold the originality and integrity of the words and overall perspectives of the participant (Fossey et al., 2002). Along with validity, the study must be reliable in that if it is repeated then it will yield the same conclusions consistently (de Vaus, 2001, p.30). Unlike quantitative research, there are three target areas of interest in qualitative research: language as a means to explore processes of communication and patterns of interac tion within particular social groups; description and interpretation of subjective meanings attributed to situations and actions; and theory building through discovering patterns and co nnections in qualitative data (Fossey et al., 2002, p.723). A set of guidelines was developed by Lincoln and Guba (1994) and discussed by Fossey et al., (2002) to assess the honesty and validity in qualitative research. The guidelines are to make sure that the qualitative study maintains its credibility, transferability, dependability and conformability which are defined as the internal and external validity, reliability and objectivity, respectively (Fossey et al., 2002, p723). Although barriers to perfect reliability and validity exist, (de Vaus, 2001, p.31), these steps toward maintaining reliability and validity will help decrease the chances of a study yielding weak and unreliable results (de Vaus, 2001, p.31).

PAGE 34

34 Qualitative research has several methods, with interviewing, focus groups, and participant observation being the most common (Fossey et al. 2002). This study will use interviews as the means of data collection. Sample Selection The purposive sample was composed of African American single mothers that had never been married and have had unprotected premari tal sex. The sample of 10 mothers was located through a referral sampling procedure by initiating contact wi th a small group of individuals relevant to the study and asking them to recommend additional contacts (Bryman, 2004, p. 100). The participants were asked an initial qualifying question to deter mine whether or not they qualified to participate in this study: [ When you became pregnant, did you have unprotected sex ?]. A small incentive to encourage participation was provided. Instrumentation For this study, semi structured interview questions were developed to collect data to address the research questions. The interview questions were reviewed by an expert panel and revised based on their input. See Appendix A for the Interview Guide. Data Collecti on Semi structured interviews allow participants to have a great deal of leeway in how to reply to questions (Bryman, 2004, p.321) and result in a deeper and wider understanding of the study topic from the participants point of view (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). In semi structured interviews the researcher uses an interview guide with a list of questions or fairly specific topics to be covered; however, the guide does not have to be followed exactly and questions can be added, but the same questions must be used for all interviewees (Bryman, 2004, p321). The interview guide is composed of

PAGE 35

35 introduction, follow up, probing, specifying, direct and indirect questions (Bryman, 2004, p. 326). Face to face interviews were conducted with 10 African American sin gle mothers between the ages of 1824. The data were collected by a single researcher. Interviews were audio recorded and then later transcribed for data analysis (Bryman 2004). The usage of tape recording and note taking helped the researcher to remember the participants emotions, nonverbal cues, and procedures. Field notes provided contextual and affective data possibly not reflected in the transcripts. The researchers reflections and observational notes after the meeting were used to helped recall ideas, themes, and helpful lines of questioning (Rabiee, 2004). Data Processing and Analysis The interviews were held at a location chosen by participants, most often their home and in one instance a reserved room in a library. Participants were asked to mak e themselves comfortable and face the interviewer, with the recorder placed in the center of the table. The study purpose and procedures were explained prior to the meeting at the time participants were recruited; the purpose of the study was reviewed and consent forms provided at the beginning of the interview. The researcher took care to build rapport during the recruitment phase and the beginnings of the interview in particular. It is important to ensure that the participant feels comfortable during the entire process, this will allow for open and unrestricted responses which will yield a fuller understanding to the participan ts views of their story (Denz in & Lincoln, 1994, p. 367), and also ensure study validity. The interviewer followed a set script described in more detail i n the instrumentation section. The topics were emailed out to the participants prior to the

PAGE 36

36 interview so that the participants feel comfortable and familiar with the topics. Each interview lasted approximately 1 hour, with the sh ortest interviewing running 45 minutes and the longest, 1 hour. A pre test was conducted with 2 individuals who met the study criteria, in order to make sure that the instrument was valid and reliable and the interview process was nonoffensive and proceed ed smoothly. As a result the pretest confirmed the usefulness of the interview instrument and procedure. After the first three interviews, the interviewer rechecked for any emerging themes and then decided if a question should be added or changed for the next interviews. The researcher personally transcribed the audio recordings. Data were analyzed by following the framework analysis proposed by Ritchie and Spencer (1994) and discussed in Rabiee (2004): familiarization; identifying a thematic framework; i ndexing; charting; mapping and interpretation (p. 657). The researcher became familiar with the data by listening to tapes, reading the transcripts in their entirety several time, reading the observational notes that were taken during interview and the summary notes written immediately after the interview (Rabiee, 2004, p. 657), while also paying attention to emerging themes that became apparent throughout the data. At the end of the interview, the interviewer asked each participant if they would be op en for future follow up questions if needed and if they would check their emails for a follow up summary. Immediately after each interview the interviewer made a half page summary which will summarize the information from the interview. This summary was e mailed to each participant, requesting that they check over it and make sure that their points and words were accurately captured during the interview. At this point, the follow up email also

PAGE 37

37 asked and allow ed the participant if they would like to add anyt hing that they might have forgotten during the interview or delete anything that was misunderstood or worded incorrectly. This process was done to help to ensure content validity. In the next stage, the researcher wrote key words in the margins of the transcripts to identify ideas, concepts, and categories coming out of the data. Indexing involves sorting through the data, highlighting key areas, and making comparisons. In the charting stage, quotes were lifted and reorganize by themes (Rabiee, 2004). The final stage is mapping and interpretation. In this stage it is important that the researcher understands and translates the corrected meanings from the quotes taken from the previous stage. Criteria for creating a foundation for understanding and translating coded data was developed by Krueger (1994) and discussed in Rabiee (2004): words and their meanings; context; internal consistency; frequency and extensiveness of comments; specificity of comments; intensity of comments; big ideas. According to Brym an (2004), the researcher should listen and write down reoccurring themes and place them into categories. Overall, Bryman (2004) describes coding as being able to break down data into component parts, which are given names (p. 537). This study used these techniques in order to make sure data was not lost during the analysis stage. During the data analysis stage, the researcher met with the adviser to develop the coding procedures including the code book sheet and coding process. The coding scheme was tested by the researcher and the chair on one interview, their respective results compared, and the coding scheme modified. The interviewer and adviser subsequently independently coded all interviews and compared results; discrepancies

PAGE 38

38 in codes were discussed and corrected when consensus was reached. This process better ensures the reliability of the analysis.

PAGE 39

39 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS The research objective was to explore and uncover the factors that impact African American single young adult womens decisions about unprotected sexual activity, particularly parental influence, male partner influence, and religiosity. This chapter presents the results of the analysis of data collected in indepth, faceto face interviews with 10 African American women between the ages of 18 and 24. For the purpose of confidentiality, names were changed in the results section. The first section presents the descriptive statistics for the demographic characteristics of the sample. The second section continues with background informati on on feelings about being a mother. The third section addresses Research Question 1, presenting the results of the analyses of the influences on decisions about unprotected sex. The fourth section addresses Research Question 2 and the relative importance of each influence. The last section in this chapter brings out themes and patterns emerging from the data. Demographic Characteristics Demographic summary statistics include numbers reporting, range, and mean score of the following characteristics: age, number of children, education level, living situation, current employment, and household income. First regarding age, 10 out of 10 women reported their ages, ranging from 18 to 24 years, with a mean age of 23 years. As shown in Figure 41, with regard to number of children, participants had between 1 and 4 children and m ost ( 7 0% ) reported having one child. Figure 42 show results for education level. The majority of the sample, 70%, had at least some college. Of the 10 women, one had no high school diplom a, two had at

PAGE 40

40 least a high school diploma, three had completed some college, and four had a bachelors degree. The results for the living situation of the participants were split with 50% living alone and the other 50% with a parent or significant other. Figure 41. Dis tribution of partic ipants by number of children between 14. Table 41 Summary of education level of participants. Education Level % Females (n =10) Females (n = 10) No High School 10% 1 High School 20% 2 Some College 30% 3 Bachelors 40% 4 Figure 42. Distribution of participants by education level. Regarding the current employment status of the 10 participants, two participants were unemployed and the other 8 participants were employed. Participants were represented in all four income categories, with 40% of participants falling in the lower bracket, but 30% in the higher bracket. Table 43 and Figure 43 show participant household income levels

PAGE 41

41 Table 42 Summary of partic ipants household income. Household Income % Females (n = 10) Females (n = 10) 15,000 19,900 40% 4 20,000 24,900 20% 2 25,000 29,900 10% 1 30,000 34,900 30% 3 Figure 43. Distribution of participants by household income. Reactions to Pregnancy and Being a Mother To begin discussion, the opening question asked, H ow did you feel when you found out that you were pregnant. There were a variety of responses, including: shocked, guilty, worried, excited and happy, unexpected, not shocked, upset and disappointed, shame and denial. For example, one respondent, Sherry, said, I wasnt shocked because I knew that what we were doing would eventually lead to pregnancy. Another respondent, Melonie, stated My main concern was what people would say, people in my family. Teesha said, I wasnt happy because of my situation (not being married and having my own place and a job). I didnt feel that I was ready. Finally, Natalie described her experience by stating, It was crazy because I was shocked. I was keeping up with my cycle and when and when not to have sex. Also Natalie said, I was scared and disappointed in myself. My mom was the first person that I thought about and I didnt want to disappoint her. I cried. Another part icipant, Courtney, stated, I felt guilty. I felt

PAGE 42

42 ashamed. I was wondering how I was going to handle a two year old and twins. I was just really upset, really. The participants responses included both positive and negative reactions. However, the major ity (n=8) expressed what might be considered to be on the negat ive end of the spectrum with a minority of respondents (n=2) indicating a positive reaction. One of these women, Sherry, stated, I was excited but worried because I wondered how things would change in my life since I was in school and would have to raise a child for 18 plus years. Veronica said, I was surprised and shocked but I was still very happy when I found out that I was pregnant. When asked how they felt about being a mother now half described the support they receive to carry out this new role as being very important. For example: Veronica stated that Being a mother is not as hard as I thought it was going to be. I believe that its a lot easier because I have a good family and support system. Natalie said, I think that its going pretty good. As far as my child being taken care of, Ive been lucky because my support system. Several participants reported that they loved being a mom, although three also qualified their respo nse with a recognition of difficulties as well. Rylie said, Things are a lot easier. Just like anything else, it has its ups and downs but for the most part its good. I love being a mom; its the best job ever. Lidia explained, Good, I guess they are g ood compared to thoughts of not being a mom. I feel like it could be better financially but everything is good, Im making it. Melonie stated, Its more work. Its a lot of work to balance school, work and other things. Another worry is that Im about to

PAGE 43

43 graduate and what if I dont find a job right away and am I going to be a good example for her. Two respondents saw their children as being their sanity. Teesha said, Great! I love being a mom, I feel that they are my sanity and they keep me smiling Also, Roslynne said, I believe that God brought my baby in my life to make me feel proud and accomplished. I look at other people in my situation and I can look around and be proud of myself because Im not on welfare and Im not getting child support but Im doing great. I believe God brought my baby into my life to give me mental stability because I use to be my hardest critic and I put myself down so much and I had a nervous break down because I felt like I wasnt accomplishing anything. Now, looking at my baby I feel l ike I have accomplished a lot. Influences on Decisions about Unprotected Sex The first research question asked, Among African American single young adult mothers, what are the major factors that they perceive to influence their decisio ns to have unprotected premarital sex? In the following sections, I discuss the major influences on participants decisions as previously identified: parental influence, male partner influence, religion and Fatalism. Parental Influence When asked, What influence did your mother and/or father have on your decisions about your intimate relationship?, (n=9) participants reported that their parents had not talked to them about sex. Sherry stated, My parents never taught me anything about a relationship. I never really had much of a parent/child relationship. Maria said, I would really say none. I feel that you can tell me not to do something but I feel that you should tell me by showing me and I didnt really have anyone actually in my life to say, ok, this is what youre not supposed to do and Im going to show you how not to do it. I felt as though I was grown, I had

PAGE 44

44 graduated from college and I was just like, Im grown and I can do whatever I want to do. I knew that I should have been doing better but they didnt really have a very strong influence on it. Natalie said, I cant really say that my parents talked to me about a relationship. They discussed sex with me but not in detail and if they did then I dont remember. I always remember coming up w ith my own idea of a good man. Many respondents (n=5) attributed a lack of parental communication to an absent father or poor relationship with their mother. Melonie said, My father wasnt around (incarcerated). I feel that having a male influence is i mportant because when my step father was around, I didnt get into as much trouble because I had a male influence to talk to. Lidia stated, My mom, to be honest, I dont think that she has the best judgment even now when it comes to men. I trust her as far as wanting someone to love me the right way but I guess I feel that she settle a lot which makes me not want to listen to what she has to say. Roslynne said, My mom didnt have much of an influence on whether or not I dated him (babys father) because I felt that she didnt really know him and just looked at the outside. I knew him as a person. It was important because I know my mom in the past has been right so many different times but she has also been wrong. It was 50/50, it was important but n ot enough to change my decisions. Two respondents regretted not having a father figure in their lives. Melonie said, I wish that I did have a father figure around to talk to about certain issues or questions. I feel that I would not have gotten pregnant if my father was around.

PAGE 45

45 Maria said, Now that Im older I can see that if my father would have been more active in my life that I could have made a lot of better decisions. So I think that it would have been better if they would have been more involved. Two women reflected that their pregnancy was part of a self fulfilling prophesy. Courtney said, Actually, my mom had a lot to do with it. My family period had a lot to do with it because I was always labeled like my mom. My mom was a young mother, a very very young preteen mother and because I was labeled as such, it kind of put the negative thoughts into my mind to be like well, I might as well do it, since yall are accusing me of doing it anyways. Thats how I initially started having sex. Rosly nne said, Yes, because I felt that a lot of things that she thought was happening between me and him werent happening and I felt that because she kept assuming then it did happen. I always tell her that she made her dreams come true she kept saying th at we were having sex and were going to get pregnant even when we werent. Nevertheless, the most common response (n=7) was that the decisions about sexual intimacy and partner selection was primarily based on the womans own choices. For example; Sherry said, No, no one had any influence on my preferences. I felt that it was my decision. I feel that it wasnt consciously but more based on how I was raised. My grandmother had an opinion about him and she wasnt too thrilled but once she spoke to him the n she decided to try to trust him. Melonie stated, My mother didnt really influence my decisions to date babys father. My mother felt that we werent compatible because I was in college and he wasnt. I thought about my mothers words and opinions but of course I did what I wanted to do in the end. In addition, participants were asked about the quality of their relationship at the time of the pregnancy. Three women reported having a poor relationship, whereas three

PAGE 46

46 reported having a good mother daughter relationship. For example, Rylie stated, Me and my mom had a relationship but it wasnt the best relationship. I really didnt care. I felt that if I got pregnant then I got pregnant, if it happens then it happens. I really wasnt concerned about w hether or not she was disappointed. Rosynne stated, It was rocky. We were getting in to it. She was staying with me and we had financial troubles. However, Melonie stated, At the time I got pregnant, my relationship with my mother was really good because my mother was concerned. Lidia said, I grew closer to my mom. Some of my friends got distant. My mom was like my best friend during my pregnancy. Half of the respondents felt that they didnt have real, active parents. Sherry said, Very little influence because it may be the fact that I never considered them to be actual parents. Rylie said, I went back and forth between my father and my mother every other year. I feel that I felt that I was in love and everything because I didnt really hav e a good relationship with neither of my parents. It wasnt important at all. Our relationship didnt mean much until I was well into my pregnancy and thats when they started to act like parents. Maria said, It was important because I wish they would hav e done more. They werent really parents that were involved with my lifestyle and assisting me with dating. When asked about their family background; three respondents said that they were raised by a sister or grandmother because their parents were not available (e.g., incarcerated parents). Half of the respondents stated that their mom gave them advice about men; however, they had a poor relationship with their fathers. Half of the participants commented that that they learned what to do and how to choos e a partner by watching the lives of their parents. For example: Sherry said,

PAGE 47

47 I learned a little from living with each parent off and on through watching their individual relationships with their significant other, however, it was not enough to be much of an impact on my decisions about my intimate relationship(s). Overall, I learned more of how to choose a partner (looking at values and morals and goals). Melonie said, Some of the things that I took and the things that I went through in my relationship with my babys father was some of the same qualities that my step father and biological father possessed. I tried to fight against my mothers opinions of being like, no, no, no the entire time that me and the babys father dated. We started dating when I was 14 or 15 years old. The things that attracted me to my babys father were things that I saw in my upbringing. Lidia said, I feel that I made those decisions on my own. I guess by watching who she dated and stuff it kind of influenced the type of men I chose. Male Partner Influence When asked about the closeness of their relationship with their childs father at the time of the pregnancy, 6 out of 10 women described their relationship as being very close; 4 of these women stated the closeness had to do with the couples history, i.e., length of time of their relationship. Sherry said, We had a very close relationship because we had been together for 2 years and had established trust, love and familiarity with each other. Maria said, Yes, weve been very close. Hes been in my life forever. Over half of the women (n=6) also reported the relationship as being rocky and changing once they became pregnant. For example: Sherry said, I started to become a little more reserved and uneasy because the babys father started to become negatively influenced by his family. Lidia said, We were close because we were good friends for a while. Before I got pregnant there werent any issues but once responsibility and reality sat in things got

PAGE 48

48 bad. After a month of me being pregnant, he stopped calling and started being distant. Melonie stated, We were close but only because we had been together for so long. At the time of my pregnancy we were on bad terms. Not doing well. When asked what was important to the m about their relationship with their significant other, most women (n=8) identified love, trust, and commitment as being important. Courtney said, I think that emotions had a lot to do with it. I trusted him, loved him. Love is a big thing. I felt that I really loved him and trusted him. Natalie said, I guess we were both committed to each other. Thats what I got from hi m and thats what I showed him. It was just over a period of time we gradually used less and less condoms. As we got closer we became more committed. Some of the women (n=3) felt that being married and having their partners commitment to them and their child were important. When asked about their closeness with their partner, some of the women (n=3) emphasized that to them, the trust and closeness they felt was associated with marriage. For example, Sherry said, Mainly because in my mind, after being with this person for 2 years, I felt that I could see myself being with him for the rest of my life and having children. I felt that I ha d been with him for that long and that I trust him and I knew that we were a monogamous couple. In my mind, we were already married because I felt that this was the one, the man that I was to be with forever. I had already committed to love and trust him a nd figured that we would have a future together. I use to just feel that I could repent until we became official but in the mean time, this was a decision that I felt was right. Veronica stated, We did everything that married people did except for get mar ried. We have everything but the paper. He has said Im his wife. When asked about what was important to them about their relationship with their male partner at the time of their pregnancy, expectations for a two parent family,

PAGE 49

49 support for the child and the mother were very important factors to these women. Sherry stated, The most important thing was that once we found out that I was pregnant, I wanted to know if he was going to be a responsible father (e motionally, financially and stuff ). I wanted to k now that he was going to be there for me and we would do this together and help out as much as he could. It was important to me because of my childhood (not having both parents) I felt that it was a necessity that my child had a better childhood with both parents. Melonie said, Once I was pregnant, I wanted my relationship to work because I wanted my baby to have a mother and father that were together. Lidia said, When I got pregnant I always thought that I would be married to the person that I got preg nant by. So regardless of what type of love was there, I got confused with what love was and I had the dream of basically having a family. The next question was directed at understanding how participants became pregnant and their decisions at that time: Can you explain to me how you got pregnant? In response, 6 out of 10 stated that it just happened. For instance, Teesha said, It wasnt planned, it just happened. We discussed a future together with kids but it wasnt planned to happen so soon. Rylie stated, It just happened. I wanted to have sex but I didnt want to get pregnant. So I didnt try to get pregnant. Sherry stated, No, it wasnt a planned decision but it wasnt unexpected either. We knew what could happen but we never tried to stop it Maria said, No, it just kind of happened. We had unprotected sex. What happened was right before we got ready to have sex, he went to go get a condom and then after sex, I realized that he never put it on. So it wasnt just like, Oh were going to hav e unprotected sex! And I just kind of asked him after because I saw the condom laying on the floor.

PAGE 50

50 When asked about their decisions to have unprotected sex, 7 of the 10 women stated that there wasnt any pressure from their partner. Lidia said, It was important. If he would have told me that he wanted to use protection then I wouldnt have been able to stop him. Sherry stated, It was a decision made between the two of us. There was never any pressure. Melonie said, There was never any pressure. He never got a condom and I never told him to get one. Veronica said, I had sex without a condom because I didnt want to lose him. I didnt want him to go out there because they always say [people] what you wont do then somebody else will. A common response (n=5) was related to knowing that they and their partners were both clean i.e., safe from sexually transmitted diseases. Courtney said, We knew that we were both clean and I felt that one time wouldnt hurt. We had gotten tested so ST D s weren t a problem. I would rather take a child any day over an STD In response to the question about her decision to have unprotected sex, Lidia said, I knew that using protection would stop things from happening but it wasnt a concern because I trusted him. Natalie said, Pregnancy was my biggest fear in the beginning and I had already got tested for STD s and we both got tested. Veronica stated, I kept sleeping with him because its too many diseases out there and I didnt want to sleep with anyone els e and he felt the same way. He said I know you clean and Im clean. Some of the women (n=2) expressed that their partners didnt like to use condoms. In addition, 3 out of 10 women expressed that they personally didnt like to use condoms because of com fort. Teesha said, It just happened. I dont like condoms

PAGE 51

51 so I didnt want to use one. He wanted to use one but I didnt like the way they felt. Rylie stated, Well, it felt better and we didnt really ever use condoms. Roslynne said, We went to have sex and he couldnt perform with a condom. He really wanted to have sex so we decided to not use a condom so that it would work. Alcohol was involved in the decision making for 2 of the women. Courtney said, At the time, I knew that there was a possibili ty that I could get pregnant but I didnt care enough because I was drunk and my thinking was, I dont think it will happen this one time and well be alright. For 3 out of 10 women, their past experiences and the experiences of others played a role in their decision making. For example; Courtney stated, Ive thought about this and had this conversation with my ex before: I feel that there are many people that have had unprotected sex for years and have not gotten pregnant because its not mea nt to be, so if we get pregnant then its meant, ya know. We both felt the same way. Lidia said, We werent using condoms so I guess you can say it was planned but it wasnt really planned. But I didnt think that I could get pregnant at the time. Well because be fore him, he was the second person that I had slept with and with my first love, I never used protection with him and I never got pregnant. And with my sons father, we were together a whole year and I had never gotten pregnant. Veronica stated, Prior to me getting pregnant I think we used a condom that supposedly wouldnt break but it broke but I didnt get pregnant. So we felt that it was meant to happen. Even when he tried to get me pregnant in the past, it wouldnt happen.

PAGE 52

52 Two women felt that they werent themselves at the time of their decision. For example; Teesha said, I knew that a condom would prevent STDs and pregnancy. I thought about the potential outcomes but at that time, emotionally I felt sad and lonely and sex was a way for me to feel better and wanted. It wasnt about love or trust, sex was a way for me to take away the pain. I guess I felt in control of that part of my life. Roslynne stated, Yes, unprotected sex was definitely a risk that I wouldnt have normally took. In the past I w asnt in a stable place mentally. My babys father knows that now, he wouldnt even get my phone number. I was depressed and trying to find happiness in the wrong places back then. I tried to improve my self esteem and I didnt know my self worth at the ti me so I did things to justify me. Some of the women (n=3) felt that the decision to not use contraception happened gradually over time. For example; Sherry stated, It wasnt always unprotected sex but as the trust and love progressed in our relationship, then we just made a conscious choice to have unprotected sex. Natalie said, It wasnt, it was just over a period of time we gradually used less and less condoms. As we got closer we became more committed. A minority of women (n=2) stated that they felt that they were looking for love. Maria stated, I was chasing something and looking for something but now that I know that God is love, Im not looking for love anymore. Rylie said, I went back and forth between my father and my mother every other year. I feel that I felt that I was in love and everything because I didnt really have a good relationship with neither of my parents.

PAGE 53

53 Influence of Religion Several questions tapped the influence of religion in participants lives. When asked how important currently is religion is in their lives, 9 out of 10 said that it is very important. For example, Courtney said, Right now it is very important. I attend church and I pray, I have a very close relationship with God. Furthermore, when asked, Would you consi der yourself religious? 8 women identified themselves as having a very strong faith or being very religious with regular church attendance. For instance, Sherry said, Yes, very religious. I try to go to church every Sunday. However, 2 women said that they dont consider themselves to be religious. Melonie said, I dont consider myself to be religious because I dont follow the Bible totally and dont go to church every Sunday. I consider my Grandmother to be religious. I believe in God but wouldnt describe myself as religious. Veronica stated, I would say no. Religious to me means, going to church, reading your bible and going to every event. When asked whether their religious beliefs affected their decisions about sexual intimacy, half of the women (n=5) reported that either they didnt think about religion at the time, or it wasnt as important at that time in their life. For example; Rylie said, I was religious about some things but with sex, I didnt feel that I could wait [on marriage]. A follow up question asked, How important was religion in your life (at the time you got pregnant)?Natalie said, Not very important. I got baptized but being around friends and stuff I guess I followed the crowd. I only went back [to church] then because my mom went. Teesha stated, No, because I didnt think about it at that time. It wasnt

PAGE 54

54 on my mind. I feel like sex is the same as any other sin. I never felt religion a big deal in determining my decision to engage in sex before marriage. On the othe r hand, 3 women felt guilty because of their religious beliefs. Lidia said, It was something in the back of my mind, I always believed that premarital sex was wrong but it wasnt anything that I focused on at that time. Roslynne stated, Back then, I was still religious because I would feel so guilty and stupid. When asked, How important was religion in making a decision about sexual intimacy?, four women who identified as being very religious also felt that they made their decision based on their need to explore who they were outside of religion. For example; Courtney said, I knew better when I did it and I was always in the church, but I felt like I had been in church all my life and I felt like I never got to experience what normal kids experience. I felt that I wanted to live my life and do things that I wanted to do. It probably wasnt number one but it was always important. I still attended church on the regular but like I said, I felt like I had missed out so I was still trying to do other things. Roslynne stated, Religion is e xtremely important. I wear myself out to stay connected. I feel like that was the problem before, I felt like I burned myself out from going to church all the time and I wanted to see what I was missing (outside of churc h) which is how I got involved in a lot of things (having sex and all of that). At the time I felt that I was losing boyfriend after boyfriend because I would always be involved in something at church and thats when I decided to step down from the activit ies in order to experience other things. It [Religion] was always important but I just wanted to experience life. The remaining women (n=6) felt that either it was a personal decision not based on religion. Natalie said, No, because I didnt think about r eligion at that time. It wasnt on my mind. Melonie said, I felt convicted about having sex but I didnt stop having sex. Rylie stated, It wasnt important at all. I wasnt really thinking about that.

PAGE 55

55 The participants were asked how important was reli gion in making a decision about your pregnancy? Four women stated that they spoke to a religious advisor about their pregnancy, while the rest of the women felt that it was a decision that they made on their own. Maria stated, I talked to a pastor and his wife and I was crying and I said that I feel like I made a mistake and dont know if Im making the right decision to keep him. I feel like that male influence is very important because my pastor said that my child had purpose and that the sin was in the sex and not in the child because only God can create life. And when he said that, I really began to feel that my child did have purpose. I look at my pastor as a father, a spiritual father and his words really had an effect on me. I had other family member s trying to tell me in those words but when it came from him, I was just like, ok, I got it. Courtney said, When I found out I was pregnant, I went to my pastor and his wife and told them that I wasnt sure about what to do. I also talked to them about the effects that it was having on my mom and it helped a lot. However, Teesha said, No, I made my own decision. Natalie stated, I didnt feel that I need religion to help me make any decisions about pregnancy. When asked if they felt that religion was more important in certain areas of their lives than others, half of the women stated that in the past it was. For example; Maria said, Back then, I would pray or go to church every now and then and think that it was ok to do whatever and just ask for God to forgive me and I would just continue to do it. In the past it was more of me being religious vs. having a personal relationship. If you ask me back then, I would say it was important but my actions said different. Courtney stated, I think for me, yes. I say yes because the religious setting I was raised in. It was always like, sex was hush hush. I was taught that sex is a sin and you shouldnt do it but it never was dealt with in detail like it should have been.

PAGE 56

56 However, two women felt that religion was important in every area of their lives. Roslynne stated, No, I was religious with everything and I feel like thats why certain people didnt want to be around me. Relative Importance of Each Influence The second research question was Of what relative importance is each of the following influences on African American single young adult mothers decisions to have unprotected premarital sex: religiosity, parental and male partner influence? Rank Ordering of Influences To address this research questi on, participants were first asked to rank order, from most influential to least influential in their importance to your decisions about sexual intimacy: parental influence, male partner influence, and religious influence, with 1=most influential, 2=somew hat influential, and 3=not influential). Table 44 shows the results of the ranking. Table 44. Ranking of influences on decision making. Percent and Number by Ranking Category (1=most influential, 2= somewhat, 3=least/not influential Type of Influence Category Percent (n) Parental 1 40 (4) 2 50 (5) 3 0 (0) Other 10 (1) Male Partner 1 60 (6) 2 20 (2) 3 0 (0) Other 20 (2) Religiosity 1 1 0 (1) 2 1 0 (1) 3 80 (8) Other 0 (0) With regard to male partner influence, 6 out of 10 women identified it as being the most influential factor in their decision because their relationship was important. For example, Melonie stated, Male partner I thought that sex would help my relationship

PAGE 57

57 by having sex because it was something that he wanted and he felt that it would bring us closer and my boyfriend thought that it would help the relationship and be a way for us to get closer. Sherry stated, Male--most important but there was never any pressure. I t was mutual but I cared most about our future and our relationship. These results show that participants felt that parental influence and other caregivers influence was only somewhat important. Natalie stated, I feel that my parents were not an influence at all because they were never around and never talked to my about sex. Teesha said, Parental --Somewhat -because I felt that it was important but at the end of the day it was all on me. Overall, religion was found to be the least influential. Sh erry stated, Religion-- Somewhat --because it wasnt as important at that point. Lidia stated, Somewhat my faith wasnt as strong. Natalie said, Religion was not important determining whether or not I would have sex (wasnt really thinking about relig ion at the time). An additional finding was that 3 out of 10 women identified a new response option that they themselves were the most influential, more so than their male partner in making the decision about sexual intimacy. Natalie stated, Male partner influence, I felt that having him was important but not as much as my own self. I felt that my own choices outweighed other people. Lidia said, I still valued my familys opinions but it was still a decision that I made. Teesha stated, Parental Some what because I felt that it was important but at the end of the day it was all on me. Rating of Influences To address the second research question, participants were also asked to, rate the strength of the importance of each of the following on your deci sions about sexual intimacy on a scale of (14) (1= not important at all, 2=somewhat important,

PAGE 58

58 3=somewhat not important, and 4=very important) Table 45 shows the results of this rating. Table 45. Rating of importance of each influence on decision mak ing. Percent and Number by Rating Category (1=not important, 2=somewhat not, 3=somewhat, 4=very important Type of Influence Category Percent (n) Parental 1 20 (2) 2 40 (4) 3 4 20 (2) 0 (0) Other 10 (1) Male Partner 1 0 (0) 2 0 (0) 3 30 (3) 4 50 (5) Other 30 (3) Religiosity 1 60 (6) 2 10 (1) 3 20 (2) 4 0 (0) Other 0 (0) These results show that, as with the rankings, the male partners influence was very important, with 5 women giving it the highest ranking. For example, Melonie stated, I thought that sex would help my relationship because it was something that he wanted and he felt that it would bring us closer. Also similar to the rankings, 4 out of 10 women identified themselves as being very important in their decisions. Natalie stated, It was more about what I wanted to do. Teesha stated, I felt that I was the most influential person/thing in my decision to engage in unprotect/premarital sex because I made the decision. On the other hand, parental influence and religion had relatively little influence on womens decisions. Six women reported that parental influence was not important or somewhat not important. For example, Sherry stated, My parents never taught me

PAGE 59

59 anything about a relationship. I never really had much of a parent/child relationship. Melonie stated, Parental influence was only somewhat not [important] bec ause although I thought about it, I still did what I wanted to do. In addition, most women (n=6) felt that religion was not important at all. The other categories is left as an option for the women that felt that their were other influences that impact ed them. The women that were raised by another relative other than their parents were given the option to rate them if needed. Also, this option of other was also used for the women (n=1) that felt that self was another influence. Natalie said, I felt that having him [male partner] was important but not as much as my own self. I felt that my own choices outweighed other people. Outlook/Worldview (Fatalism) To tap the concept of worldview or fatalism introduced as a possible influence on pregnancy deci sions, participants were asked several questions: (1) How were things going in your life at the time (of the pregnancy)? (2) Did you feel you were personally in control of things that were happening at the time? How much control did you feel you had? ( 3) Thinking about your intimate relationship, did you feel that whatever outcome that came about (pregnancy, STI) was meant to happen regardless of whether or not you used protection? When participants were asked about how their lives were going at the t ime of their pregnancy, the group was divided, with half reporting that things were going well, and the other half saying that things were bad or rocky. Lidia stated, Things were going good. I had graduated with my LPN degree and was working as a success ful nurse.

PAGE 60

60 Courtney said, I had my own apartment and I felt independent. For the first time in my life I felt like a young adult and I think that played a part. I felt grown and I felt that I could do grown people things. However, Rylie noted, It w as ok but stressful. I couldnt do anything with friends or anything. Veronica said, Bad, we were being evicted. My hours went from 20 to 8. I had to move back home which I hated. My car was acting up. Me and Rick [babys father] werent doing to good. It was just one thing after another. When asked if they felt personally in control of things that were happening at the time and how much control they felt, the majority (n=6) said that they felt somewhat or completely in control. Sherry stated, I felt t hat I was in complete control. I knew that my actions would lead to certain consequences but I felt mature enough to have a sense of responsibility for my actions. I had a good support and community system so I felt very stable about my decisions and life. Melonie stated, Yes, I felt that I had control of the things that were happening but I did feel pressure from school. Other participants (n=4) stated that they felt totally out of control. Natalie said, No, felt totally out of control and sex was an outlet (made me feel better and wanted). Roslynne said, I felt out of control. I felt like I wasnt making decisions that my normal self would have made. I think that I was taking more risks to try to make myself feel happier. I was wondering why I wasnt happy with the accomplishments I had made. Yes, unprotected sex was definitely a risk that I wouldnt have normally took. Veronica stated, No, I felt like I had very little control, less than 50%. I felt that I couldnt control anything. Except for my relationship because I felt like I played a part in that by listening to my family.

PAGE 61

61 In response to the question asking whether any outcomes (pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease) were meant to happen regardless of whether or not they used protection, half the women (n=5) stated that they felt that it was meant to happen. For example; Rylie stated, Yes, I believe that everything happens for a reason. Veronica said, Yep, thats my outlook on life. I feel like if its meant to be then it will be. Prior to me getting pregnant I think we used a condom that supposedly wouldnt break but it broke but I didnt get pregnant. So we felt that it was meant to happen. Even when he tried to get me pregnant in the past, it wouldnt happen. However, the other half of these women felt that they knew what could happen and that they had control over the things that were going on in their lives. Natalie stated, He knew what could happen because he already had kids and he didnt want any more until he got married but I di dnt want to use one, so we didnt. I knew what could happen but I just really didnt think about it and I really didnt expect it to happen. Reporting a sense of invincibility at the time she got pregnant, Lidia stated, I knew that using protection would stop things from happening but it wasnt a concern because I trusted him. I felt invincible; I felt that I didnt see any of that happening to me. Additional questions tapped womens perspective on whether Gods will or fate was at work in their de cisions. First, participants were asked if they believed in Gods will and/or fate and their definition of Gods will. There were a variety of responses to this question. Courtney stated, Yes, Gods will is Gods will and if its Gods will then I dont c are what you do, its going to happen. I dont think that fate and Gods will are the same thing and I think that Gods will dominates over everything. Sherry said, Now, it means more than it did then. In the past I felt that it meant luck. I believed in it but I also believed that your actions are what predict your fate.

PAGE 62

62 In contrast, Natalie stated, Yes I have heard of it but I dont believe in it as far as a relationship is concerned. I feel that a relationship and having a child is something that you can make happen and it doesnt just happen to you without you controlling it. Similarly, Roslynne stated, I dont think that it had anything to do with his will and I think it was fate. But then again, it probably was his will because everything g ood in me that I had kind of stepped aside to allow it to happen. So I guess it was his will to show me what could happen. I think that God allowed me to let it happen because I was so strict on myself. Also, Melonie stated, I feel that it means, if you are in Gods will then things will go good but if you are out of his will like having sex before marriage then things will be harder. I felt that I was out of Gods will at that time in my life. I believe that everyone has a choice to be in or out of Gods will. The participants were then asked the question, How important was Gods will or Fate in deciding to engage in unprotected sex? Were there other influences more powerful in determining your decisions to engage in unprotected sex? The results were mix ed for this question. Four out of ten women stated that they felt that Gods will or fate did influence their decisions. For example, Veronica stated, I figured to be honest that if we conceive and I get pregnant and am able to carry this child then its meant for me to have this child because other times hes done it and I took pregnancy tests and they were negative. So I felt like if its meant to be then it will be. However, some women (n=4) stated that they felt that Gods will/Fate had nothing to do with their decisions. For example; Natalie stated, I didnt believe that it was fate or Gods will. I felt that I was in control. I felt that I was the most influential person/thing in my decision to engage in unprotect/premarital sex because I made th e decision. Rylie stated, It wasnt important at all. I wasnt really thinking about that.

PAGE 63

63 In addition, 2 out of 10 women felt that their personal and family expectations that were more powerful. Sherry stated, Yes, love, commitment, personal choice, how I wanted my life to be-marriage, family, commitment, trust, success, partnership. This may have been because I came from a large family but it wasnt always traditional with mother and father and children all together. So, I guess that creating my o wn family and stability was more important. Veronica stated, Yep, we had money saved up and two cars and (enough to start a family) things were going good then things turned bad after I got pregnant. Themes and Processes Key Themes Emerging from the Data Several themes emerged from the data. First, some womens comments reflected their thinking about their own family background and their desires for their own families. This included a lack of parental influence in their lives, including in discussions and decisions about sexual relationships; and womens own desires for a two parent family. Most women (n=9) stated that they came from divorced homes, single mother homes, or homes where a relative raised them. These women expressed a desire to have a two p arent home and therefore to try to make their relationships work after they became pregnant, even though many of them (n=6) described their relationships with the male partner as being rocky or changing. The lack of religious influence was another common theme that emerged from the data. Many women described themselves as being religious but not considering religion as a high priority at that point in their lives. Some women (n=4) expressed the fact that they felt that they drifted away from religion because they wanted to experience life. All of the women felt that religion was important but that it did not play a role in influencing their decisions to engage in unprotected and premarital sex. Another common theme

PAGE 64

64 was the fact that most women (n=7) felt no pressure from their male partners to engage in unprotected premarital sex. Instead, the women stated that either they themselves were the ones to initiate it or that it was a mutual decision made gradually over time as their relationships and trust grew Two women felt that they wanted to try to please their partners or help their relationship by engaging in unprotect sex. Another theme was that women knew they could get pregnant but for the most part chose to engage in unprotected sex. All of the wome n stated that they knew the potential risks or outcomes that could come from engaging in unprotected sex, however, they stated it not being a planned decision but described it as just happening. Two of the women felt that they made the decision while they were in a depressed and out of control state of mind. One woman said that she felt that she consciously made a risky decision while she was not herself. The women define the act of it just happening as something that was not preplanned and something t hat was not well thought out. Also the theme of being clean was very prominent. This seemed very important to a number of women. Many women (n=5) expressed the fact that their trust, love, commitment and the fact they trusted that their partner was monoga mous and clean ( i.e., free from sexually transmitted diseases) was an important influence in their decision to engage in unprotected sex. Additionally, the theme about opposition to abortion was very important. All of the women expressed mixed feeling about being pregnant and they all got advice from either a parent or pastor, however, they all felt that not having an abortion was an important personal choice. Patterns in the Data The data from this study revealed some noteworthy patterns, some expected and others unexpected, based on previous research on this topic. First, as expressed

PAGE 65

65 above, parents seem to have little direct effect on womens decisions, as might be expected among women in their early 20s and living independently. However, there was little parental influence in the adolescent years either, as mothers offered little information to their daughters about sex, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases ; and fathers were unavailable and uninvolved in their daughters lives. From the st udy most women (n=9) stated that they had a lack of a father influence. Some of the women (n=2) expressed the desire for a father role model in helping them make better decisions regarding men and sex. Additionally, women reported that their own desire for a two parent family factored in to their actions. Along the same lines, religion played a complicated role in these womens lives. Although religion was important before and after the pregnancy, it held little sway on womens decisions about unprotected s ex. In fact, some women were escaping or rebelling against the constraints of traditional religious beliefs by engaging in nonmarital sex. Sidestepping feelings of guilt invoked by traditional religious messages, these women expressed that they were learni ng about and enjoying life. However, when it came to being pregnant, the women in this sample returned to their parents, particularly their mother, and their religious community, for support and guidance. This was particularly true when it came to decisio ns about abortion; and on this, their parents, religious leaders, and the women themselves agreed in opposing termination of the pregnancy. Although male partner influence was expected to exert a strong effect on womens decisions, it appeared instead that women were knowledgeable about and conscious of the choices they were making, and held themselves responsible for their

PAGE 66

66 actions. Most felt they were in trusting, loving monogamous relationships of some duration with clean partners. However, while an ticipating commitment and involvement from their partners, most women did not place the responsibility for their sexual decisions or subsequent choices about their pregnancy on their partner. Similarly, while an attitude of fatalism was expected to play a pivotal role, this did not appear to be a driving force in womens decisions to have unprotected sex. This is borne out in contrasting views of the importance of fate in their decisions. First, in response to questions about who influenced their decisio ns, the majority (n=6) stated that they were in complete control and the decisions were their own, while others believed in Gods will or fate as the key influences in their lives (n=4). For example, Sherry said, I felt that I was in complete control. I knew that my actions would lead to certain consequences but I felt mature enough to have a sense of responsibility for my actions. I had a good support and community system so I felt very stable about my decisions and life. Natalie stated, Yes I have heard of it [Gods will] but I dont believe in it as far as a relationship is concerned. I feel that a relationship and having a child is something that you can make happen and it doesnt just happen to you without you controlling it. In contrast were the women who felt that Gods will was a key influence, yet even these women equivocate. Marina said, Yes, I feel that a lot of people say that things are Gods will. I mean I could say that it was Gods will for me to have my son, which at the time it pro bably was but I still had some kind of influence. But that lets me know that my child also has purpose because even in the midst of my sinning, he gave me a gift because my son is a blessing.

PAGE 67

67 Roslynne stated, I dont think that it had anything to do wit h His will and I think it was fate. But then again, it probably was His will because everything good in me that I had kind of stepped aside to allow it to happen. So I guess it was His will to show me what could happen. I think that God allowed me to let i t happen because I was so strict on myself. In summary, the figure 44 below presents these patterns in visual form. Some of these patterns would seem to be tied to the family and community context influencing these young women long before their sexual dec ision making their history living in a single parent family, a strict religious upbringing contrasting marital sex as revered and nonmarital sex as sinful, and general opposition to abortion. Others seem to be characteristic of their own life transition, f rom late adolescence to young adulthood, a time of exploring possibilities and identity. In these cases, when a decision about unprotected sex resulted in a pregnancy, these young women were thrown into another decisionmaking point about their pregnancy, and again the family and religious support becomes more influential. Although this research did not test the relations among variables, this figure may offer a conceptual representation of the process I observed.

PAGE 68

68 Figure 44. The process of decisions about unprotected sex

PAGE 69

69 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCL USION Discussion The first section of this chapter reviews the research questions, summarizes the findings that answer these questions, and compares the results to previous research. The next part of thi s chapter reviews the theories that framed the study and discusses the usefulness of each. The second major section is conclusions, in which I discuss the research and practice implications of the study. Research Questions Research question 1: Among Afr ican American single young adult mothers, what are the major factors that they perceive to influence their decisions to have unprotected premarital sex? Research question 2: Of what relative importance is each of the following influences on African Americ an single young adult mothers decisions to have unprotected premarital sex: religiosity, parental and male partner influence? Regarding Research Question 1, the findings suggest that among these women, perceptions of the major factors that influence their decisions are closely tied to their developmental stage, that is, the process of transitioning to adulthood. During the earlier adolescent years, their guardian, whether a parent or other family member, and in some cases a person from their religious background, had a big influence over their decisions. However, as these women matured and began to progress toward adulthood, their decisions became less directly dependent on their parental and religious background. In fact, as the women matured, their par ental influence seemed to be present but indirect, in the sense of having previously shaped their beliefs and behaviors through socialization and modeling during childhood and early adolescence. However, parental influences continue to manifest in the type of male partners and relationships that the

PAGE 70

70 women choose. Additionally, these participants verbalized that they consciously decided to move away from religious teachings in order to experience and explore more of life. In part, their decisions were influe nced by their own personal desires and expectations for a two parent family. Additionally, the findings showed that instead of the male partner being a controlling influence on womens decisions, the women themselves felt in charge of their own sexual deci sions. The women highlighted their male partners role as being a close relationship that they wanted to eventually grow into a marriage. Thus, although many women felt that their actions were not influenced by their male partner, the results show that there may have been an indirect influence that was centered around he r expectations for a long term relationship and traditional family with their male partner. Regarding Research Question 2, pertaining to the relative importance of each of the influences on these womens decisions about unprotected sex, the findings suggest that women consider the male partnership, as well as their own personal desires to be the top influences. Parental influence came in third, suggesting that decisions were driven by what t hese women wanted to do and where they wanted the relationship to progress. Furthermore, the context for this lower rating is important: Many of the women were either raised by a relative or felt that their parents were not very active in their lives as parents. Additionally, the women felt that their parents did not talk to them about sex, so it would not be surprising that parents were generally not trusted confidants in such personal decisions. Following parental influence in importance was religion. Religion was the least influential and important, as the women felt that at the time they became pregnant they

PAGE 71

71 were not thinking about religion. Rather, this transitional period in their lives was about setting new, wider boundaries for themselves and explor ing life beyond what they had been taught in the church. Although many of them still felt religious, they all said that religion was less important in the time prior to the pregnancy. Several findings that emerged from this study differ from previous research. First, previous research found that African American women were more likely to follow the traditional feminine role, in which they are submissive to their romantic male partner and allow them to hold the authority in the relationship (Bowleg, et al 2004). Furthermore, other research shows that African American men tend to control sexual decisions, such as condom use (Bowleg, et al. 2004), suggesting that they have enormous influence not only over sexual activity, but over possible pregnancy outco mes. This research showed that most of the women studied made their own decisions to engage in unprotected and premarital sex. In fact, in many cases where the couple had a history, they made a nonverbal, yet mutual, decision to use protection less and less as the relationship progressed; they felt they were moving toward a long term commitment. As discussed in reference to Research Question 1, although the influence of the male partner may have not been direct, the results suggest that many of the wome n were influenced by their expectations for a long term relationship and desires for a traditional family and the availability of a romantic partner. In addition, the women in this study did not show signs of assuming a traditional role when it came to making the decision to engage in unprotected sex. Instead, many of the women said that they were equally in control of the sexual decisions that were made in their relationship. At the

PAGE 72

72 same time, some stayed in what they viewed as rocky relationships because they wanted their relationship to work. Previous research has underscored the importance of parental influence on sexual decision making, particularly during adolescence. One of the most important and consistent findings has been that parents can be in fluential in reducing risk of negative outcomes such as unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, by having a continuous and open line of communication with their children, especially mothers with their daughters (Hutchinson, 2002). Additionally, Hutchinson (2002), found that mother and daughter communication is much more influential than peer communication in delaying the initiation of sex and in shaping adolescent daughters views on sex. Also, although Hutchinson (2002) did not find a significant father influence on delayed sexual initiation and values, the author does not negate other s findings that fathers play a powerful role in decreasing sexual risks by providing insights on the way men think, and by offering a more broad ranging conv ersation on topics related to sex and relationships. Although this research did not explore participants sexual behavior in their adolescent years, these women reported that little if any parental communication regarding sex had taken place during their adolescence. In many cases, participants were raised by a single mother or guardian, and as Cornelius (2009) observed, the effects of single parenthood could weigh significantly on communication during adolescence if parents were unable to spend time with the child or felt uncomfortable discussing sexual topics. Additionally, the majority of these women, n=9, were raised without a fathers regular presence in their lives. The study findings suggest that, at

PAGE 73

73 least for the women in this study, the lack of parental communication about sex, especially between mothers and daughters, coupled with a lack of a father presence, could have led to unprotected sex and, as a result, an unintended pregnancy. Further research is needed to clarify these possible linkag es. The findings with regard to the influence of religion generally support recent observations about the changing importance of the church in African American womens lives. African American women of all ages are more religious than African American me n; and are more likely to identify themselves as having a close relationship with God, being religious, and belonging to a church when compared to men (Orzorak, 1996). Furthermore, religion also plays an important role in the lives of African American sing le mothers by being a source of answers to prayer, as well as providing emotional and moral support and a feeling of belonging to a supportive church family (Matti s & Jagers, 2001). However, because many African Americans have changed their ways of life, the African American church consequently does not hold the same power and influence that it once had (Hunt & Hunt, 2001). The findings from this study show that most of these women identif ied themselves as being religious; yet, none of them viewed the church as playing a role in educating them on sexual activity. Instead, many of the women found themselves leaving the church in order to explore who they were apart from the church, and made their own decisions about sex. Consistent with the literature (Hun t & Hunt, 2001), many of these women rated the church at the bottom of influences indicating that the church did not hold a significant role in their lives before the pregnancy However, after they became single mothers, many of them tended to seek out the church once again as a source of support. The beliefs of the African

PAGE 74

74 American church in regards to premarital sex may represent traditional Christian beliefs; however even after an extensive search, research specifically addressing this issue could not be located. Theoretical Perspectives This study employed three theoretical perspectives, symbolic interactionism, fatalism, and social exchange, to frame the research questions and approach. According to symbolic interactionism, a persons motives are constructed from the meanings available to them and relevance to the situations in their environment; these meanings become visible through social interactions ( White & Klein, 2002). Also, the family context is important because the family socializes the i ndividual and is integral in helping the person create meanings and verification for their life and actions ( White & Klein 2002 p. 63). The theory of symbolic interactionism appears to be relevant in that findings showed that many of these womens per ceptions and motives were shaped by their family surroundings, specifically a lack of parental involvement and communication about sex, and poor parental examples of sexual relationships. Furthermore, some women (n=3) stated that they chose male partners b ased on what they grew up around. Thus, this theory provides a useful framework for understanding the choices and actions of women in this study: The meanings women assigned to the importance of a traditional family, based on their family context, may have influenced their actions in their own relationships. The theory of fatalism is defined as the belief that something bad (e.g., death, health outcomes) is out of an individuals control and predetermined by a higher power (Borowsky, et al. 2009; Fr anklin, et al. 2007). This perspective seemed important

PAGE 75

75 based on previous research relevant to this study population for example, findings that adolescents risky behaviors were predicted by a belief that they would face death in 1 to 7 years (Borowsky, et al. 2009). Thinking of unprotected sex as risky behavior, the researcher wanted to see if fatalism was behind these young adult womens decisions. As mentioned in Borowsky et al., ( 2009) and colleagues research found that a larger proportion of minor ities had a fatalistic view of their personal future: 29.1% of Native Americans, 25.7% of African American s, 21.2% of Hispanics, 14.9% of Asians, and 10.2% of white adolescents shared a fatalistic view Also, other research explored the concept of religious fatalism, defined as an adaptive response to life situations viewed as out of a persons control, especially among minorities (Neff & Hoppe, 1993, p. 17). Moreover, although many of these women identified themselves as having a belief in Gods will and that their child had a purpose for being born, they also however, felt as though they were in control of their decisions and actions when it came to making the decision to engage in unprotected premarital sex. Although this study found that some women demonstrated views that could be considered fatalistic, relative to other influences these beliefs played a small role in their decisions to engage in unprotected sex, and were not characteristic of most study participants. The theory of social exchange i s built on the concepts of rationality and cost and reward ( White & Klein 2002, pp. 38, 39). From this perspective, individuals are rational in their thinking and can think through the costs and rewards of their decisions. In some situations, individuals may have different costs and rewards or motivations that they associate with behavior ( White & Klein 2002, p. 33). The findings of this study generally did not show processes and ways of thinking consistent with the theory. Although

PAGE 76

76 several women said that they chose their own fate and decisions, they did not explain the costs and rewards involved in making their decisions. In fact, many women stated that their decisions were based on at the moment thinking instead of rational thought and preplanning. Although family scholars might apply the theory and view sexual activity as a short term reward, the women in this study did not articulate their decisions or their resulting pregnancy in terms of rewards or costs. Rather, they elaborated on the meani ngs and circumstances surrounding their immediate actions love, commitment, and having a clean and monogamous partner responses consistent with symbolic interactionism rather than social exchange. A perspective that was not included among the three origi nal theories, but seems to be relevant and was implicit in Figure 44, is the theory of transition to adulthood or emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000, 2007). Arnett (2000) proposed that emerging adulthood is an independent life stage. Arnett (2000) defines e merging adulthood as being an unstructured period in time composed of five unique elements: it is the age of identity explorations, the age of instability, the self focused age, the age of feeling inbetween, and the age of possibilities (p.69). This con cept of development is very relevant to this study in that many of the young women were in a stage where they were starting to make adult decisions for their futures and they felt that they were adults. However, many of these women were also transitioning from leaving their parents or guardians, as well as religious settings, to make their own choices and life decisions. Several participants identified their lives at the time of their decisions as a time where they were trying to find out who they were. Als o, several of the women felt that they were seeking out their own plans for a future family.

PAGE 77

77 Limitations There are several limitations to this study. First, this research only entailed a small sample of African American single mothers who had experienced non marital pregnancy and birth. Because there was no comparison group, no conclusions can be reached about how these mothers differed from young women who decided to terminate their pregnancy. Additionally, the majority of women in the sample had been educated beyond high school and may be different from other single mothers without any college education. Consequently, the experiences of this group of individuals cannot be generalized to all African American single young adult mothers. However, generalizability was not the purpose of the research. Rather, this study was aimed at trying to understand and explore the topic of unprotected sex among African American young adult women, and to prompt future research and discovery in relation to this target population. Although these limitations must be recognized, the study also revealed some interesting and surprising findings. Conclusion This research identified several factors that most influenced the sample of the young adult womens decisions to have unpro tected sex. Based on indepth interviews with 10 young adult women, I found that leaving the nest, not only of parents but also of the church, is an important aspect of the transition into adulthood; and the role that the nest plays before the transition al period is far greater an influence before or during adolescence than during the decision process. One reason this research is important is that an understanding of the influences on African American womens sexual decisions during emerging adulthood may provide researchers with the necessary information on how and when to prevent risky sexual behaviors.

PAGE 78

78 Research Implications Although this research did not explore the womens sexual behaviors in their adolescent years, it was apparent that their trajecto ry toward unmarried motherhood started before the moments they chose to have unprotected sex, probably being rooted in their family experiences. Future research should follow women beginning during early adolescence in order to better understand the progr ess and changes over time of the influences affecting the women. Particular attention should be given to the impacts of family structure and processes on pregnancy outcomes. Also, future studies should explore the role and relevance of church in the Africa n American community, particularly when it comes to sex education, to see if churches still can be influential in the lives of young African American women. Practice Implications The findings of this research suggest that useful interventions and progr ams would be aimed at decreasing not only risky sexual behaviors and negative outcomes, but also at increasing the sex education that many women may be lacking in the home, school, church, and community. Other research indicates that parental communication about sex and sexually transmitted diseases has decreased in recent years, possibly because these issues are not as visible in schools and communities (Robert & Sonenstein, 2010). These findings also suggest that mother daughter and perhaps father daughter communication could be strengthened to help young women avoid unwanted pregnancy. Interventions and programs should not only be aimed at women but also at their partners, in order to help them understand their roles in decision making and their future roles as fathers.

PAGE 79

79 Along with health education, parents and African American churches should be equipped with the knowledge and tools of not only what is going on in their homes and churches, but also how to prevent or create interventions. For example, sex education programs offered by churches that go beyond abstinence and understand that educating adolescents about sexual decisions doesnt mean condoning sex before marriage. It would be useful for churches to not only teach abstinence but also the potent ial negative outcomes of unprotected sex, the statistics for nonmarital births and sexually transmitted diseases in their community Moreover, since churches have a great potential to play such a pivotal role in the lives of African American women, their a ccess and power could well be used to educate young women on how to make good choices that reduce risk of early unplanned pregnancy and disease. This research also found that parental and religious influences were perceived as most important earlier in the lives of these women, gradually declined in importance in young adulthood, and rose again after pregnancy. Helping families to create strong bonds early in life and to open up communication about sex in late childhood/early adolescence, could be especiall y beneficial in reducing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease risks during emerging adulthood. In conclusion, it is important that parents and churches discuss healthy sexual decisions with teenagers and young adults. As these results suggest duri ng the transition to young adulthood, women start to make their own life choices based on their own personal desires. Future research is needed to explore African American women with similar backgrounds who prevented pregnancy, and identify why and how their life trajectories differ. Also, future research is needed to explore perceptions of control

PAGE 80

80 a mong young adult women. The results could be beneficial in showing successful prevention or intervention techniques and programs as well as target groups for pr evention program efforts.

PAGE 81

81 APPENDIX INTERVIEW GUIDE Interviewer introduce yourself: Name, Title Go over Confidentiality document State the following: If you are uncomfortable with answering a particular question, you can always refuse to answer for any reason. State Role as Interviewer: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. As we go through the interview I will also be writing down notes and taping our interview As stated on your confidentiality documents, everything discussed during our time together will remain confidential. T here are no right or wrong answers so please just answer whatever your thoughts are. Lastly, this meeting will take approximately an hour of your time. Let s get started. Tell me a little bit about your child! Probe: Is there anything else that you want to add? How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant? How are things going now that you are a mother? Now Im going to ask a few questions about factors that may have influenced your decisions about your intimate relationships. Describe intimate relationships (babys father). Parental Influence: 1. Thinking back to the time that you got pregnant, what influence did your mother and/or father have on your decisi ons about your intimate relationship?

PAGE 82

82 Probes: a. How would you describe the quality of your relationship with your mother and/or father at the time you got pregnant ? b. Did you f eel that your mother/father influenced your decisions about your intimate (significant other ) or the things that went on in your intimate relationships? Probe: Is there anything else that you would like to add about your mother or how your father affected your intimate relationships ? c. How im portant was your mothers and fathers influence in your decisions about your intimate relationships?

PAGE 83

83 2. How about once you became pregnant did your mother/father influence your decision about having your baby? Male Partner Influence: Now t here are a few questions about your relationship with the babys father. 3. Please tell me about your relationship at the time you got pregnant ? Probe: How close were you with the father of the baby at the time? 4. What was important to you about your intimate relationship with the babys father at that time? 5. ( ask very gently) Can you explain to me how you got pregnant? Was it a decision that you made together?

PAGE 84

84 Possible probe: If not, then what were the reasons t hat you and your partner had for having unprotected sex? 6. How important was your partners influence in deciding to engage in unprotected sex? Religion: Now Im going to ask you a few questions about religion. 7. How important is religion in your life? 8. Would you consider yourself to be religious? Please explain. 9. How often do you attend church? What activities do you participate in at your church? Now, thinking back on your religious involvement at the time you got pregnant 10. D id your religious beliefs affect your decisions about sexual intimacy? Probe: If yes, then how so? 11. How important wa s religion in your life?

PAGE 85

85 12. How important was religion in making a decision about your pregnancy? [Probes: for ex ample, Did you talk to your pastor or church family? Get help from members of your congregation?] Thinking more generally now Do you feel that religion is more influential in certain areas of your life? ( e.g., more influential in school than in determining who to date) In what areas does religion have the biggest influence? Ranking and Rating of influences 13. Please rank the following in order from most influential to least influential in their importance to your decisions about sexual intimacy: parental influence, male partner influence, and religious influence One is the most influential and three is the least influential ( Note: researcher, give them a sheet with the ranking listed ) Item Rank (influential) Order (1 3) 1 most influential, 2som ewhat influential, 3not influential Parental Influence Male Partner Influence Religious Influence Other (specify) 14. Please tell me about your ranking.

PAGE 86

86 15. Please rate the strength of the importance of each of the following on your decisions about sexual intimacy on a scale of (14) with 1 being not important at all, 2somewhat not important, 3 somewhat important, and 4 very important If there is some other influence that is also important, please identify and rate that influence. (Note: researcher, g ive them a sheet with the ranking listed ) 16. Please tell me about your rating. ( go through the above oneby one to help her explain. Outlook/Worldview: Now there are a few questions about how things were going for you at the time you got pregnant. 17. How were things going in your life at the time? 18. Did you feel you were personally in control of things that were happening at the time? How much control did you feel you had ? (A llow to respond fully ) 19. Thinking about your intimate relationship, did you feel that whatever outcome that came about (pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease) was meant to happen regardless of whether or not you used protection? 20. Have you ever heard of Gods will or fate? What does this mean to you? Item Ra ting of importance Parental Influence Male Partner Influence Religious Influence Other

PAGE 87

87 21. If you have heard of this phrase, how important was Gods will or Fate in deciding to engage in unprotected sex? Were there other influences more powerful in determining your decisions to engage in unprotected sex? (Probe: what were these? Probe: your own decisions, friends, etc) Demographic Information 22. What is your age? ____ 23. How many children do you have? 24. What is the highest level of education you have completed? _____ Not Completed High School _____ High School or high school equivalent _____ Some College (AA or other degree) _____ Bachelors _____ Graduate school or Higher 25. Please describe your current living situation (living alone, with a parent or parents, living with a partner [father of the child?]). 26. Are you currently employed? ___ Yes (at what type of work, how many hours per week?) ___ No 2 7 Which of the following categories best d escribes your 2008 total household income from all sources before taxes? a. Under $4,999 b. $5,000 to $9,999 c. $10,000 to $14,999 d. $15,000 to $19,999 e. $20,000 to $24,999 f. $25,000 to $29,999 g. $30,000 to $34,999 h. $35,000 to $39,999 i. $40,000 to $45,999 j. $46,000 to $49,999 k. $50,000 to $54.999 l. $55,000 to $59,999 k. $60.000 to $69,999 l. $70,000 or greater

PAGE 88

88 Clos ing: Thank you very much for your time today. I appreciate your honesty and openness and for participating in my research. Your i nformation is very important to the study. Please remember that all information will be kept confidential As a reminder y our information will be assigned a code number. The list connecting your name to this number will be stored in a locked file in my faculty supervisor's office and will be destroyed after this research is complete. Is it ok that I send you a follow up email? This email will be a brief summary of what we discussed and I want to send it to you so that you can make sure that I captured the right information and that there werent any misunderstandings. At that time, please feel free to clarify any points you think I need to know. Also, is it ok if I contact you if I need to ask you any additional questions? Initial below ___ Yes, ok to email or call. Email address: Phone Number: ___No, not ok to email or call ___Yes, ok to contact with additional questions ___No, not ok to contact with additional questions (Verbal assent on audiotape) Information to Counseling Centers: If you are a UF student: To schedule an appointment with one of the counselors at the Counseling Center at the University of Florida either stop by the Counseling Center, on the 3rd floor of Peabody Hall, or call (352) 3921575. Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc: 4300 SW 13th Street Gainesville, FL 32608; Toll Free:1 800 330 5615 or Local: (352) 3745600 Thank you again for your time and I will be sending out that email within the next week.

PAGE 89

89 LIST OF REFERENCES Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging a d ulthood: The theory of development from late teens through the twenties. American Psychologi st, 55, 469480. Arnett, J. J. (2007). Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for? Child Development Perspectives, 1 68 73. Borowski, I. W., Marjorie I., & Michael D. R. (2009). Health status and behavioral outcomes for youth who anticipate a high likelihood of early death. Pediatrics : T he Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 124 81 88. Bowleg, L., Lucas, K. J., & Tschann, J. M. (20 04). The ball was always in his court: An exploratory analysis of relationship scripts, sexual scripts, and condom use among African American women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28 70 82. Bryman, A., (2004). Social r esearch m ethods (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford. Carmen. S. (2008). Non marital Childbearing: Trends, Reasons, and Public Policy Interventions. CRS report for congress. 161. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Births: Final data 2006. (National Vital Statistics Report 57 ) R etrieved from CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/FASTATS/unmarry.htm Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). Cases of HIV infection and AIDS in the United States, by race/ethnicity, 2000 2004. (HIV/AIDS Surveillance Supplemental Report 2006 12, 1 36). Department of Health and Human Services Retrieved from CDC website: http://www.nmcphc.med.navy.mil/dow nloads/sexual_health/HIV_women.pdf Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009). Births: Preliminary Data for 2007. (National Vital Statistics Reports). Retrieved from CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr57/nvsr57_12.pdf Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2007. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats07/Surv2007FINAL.pdf Chapin, J. (2001) It won't happen to me: The role of optimistic bias in African American teens' risky sexual practices. Howard Journal of Communications, 12, 49 59. Chatt ers, L. M., Taylor, R. J., Bullard, K. M., & Jackson, J. S. (2008). Spirituality and subjective religiosity among African Americans, Caribbean blacks, and nonHispanic whites. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47, 725 737.

PAGE 90

90 Congressional Resear ch Service (2008). Non marital Childbearing: Trends, Reasons, and Public Policy Interventions. Retrieved from CRS website: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34756.pdf Cornelius, J. B. (2009). The birds, the bees, and the Bible: Single African American mothers' perceptions of a faithbased sexuality education program. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 16 21 25. de Vaus, D. (2001). Research design in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publicati ons. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Fergus, S., Zimmerman, M. A., & Caldwell, C. H. (2007). Growth trajectories of sexual risk behavior in adolescence and young adulthood. American Journal of Public Health, 97, 1096 1101. Fossey, E., Harvey, C., McDermott, F., & Davidson, L. (2002). Understanding and evaluating qualitative research. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, American Journal of Health Behavior 36 717 732. F ortenberry, J. D. (2009). Beyond validity and reliability: Meaning in context of adolescents self reports of sexual behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44 199 200. Franklin, M. D., Schlundt, D. C., McClellan, L. H., Kinebrew, T., Sheats, J., Belue, R.,Hargreaves, M. (2007). Religious fatalism and its association with health behaviors and outcomes. American Journal of Health Behavior, 31, 563 572. Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Li ncoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 105 117). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Hamilton, B. E., Martin, A., & Ventura V. S. (2009). Births: Preliminary Data for 2007. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nat ional Vital Statistic s Reports, 57, 1 23. Hunt, M. O., & Hunt, L. L. (2000). Regional religions?: Extending the Semi involuntary thesis of African American religious participation. Sociological Forum, 15, 569 594. Hutchinson, K. (2002). The influence of sexual risk communic ation between parents and daughters on sexual risk behaviors. Family Relations, 51 238 247. Krueger R. A. (1994) Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

PAGE 91

91 Lindberg, L. D., & Singh, S. (2008). Sexual behavior of single adult American women. Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 40 27 33. Mattis, J. S., & Jagers, R. J. (2001). A relational framework for the study of religiosity and spirituality in the lives of African Americans. Journal of Community Psychology, 29 519539. MacKay, A. P., & Duran, C. (2007). Adolescent Health in the United States, 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/misc/adolescent2007.pdf Neff, J. A., & Hoppe, S. K. (1993). Race/Ethnicity, acculturation, and psychological distress: Fatalism and religiosity as cultural resources. Journal of Community Psychology 21 3 20. Ozorak, E. W. (1996). The power, but not the glory: How women empower themselves through religion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 35, 17. Powe, B. D. (1997). Cancer f atalism Spiritual perspectives Journal of Religion & H ealth, 36, 135. Rabiee, F. (2004). Focus group interview and data analysis. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 63, 655 660. Robert, A. C. & Sonenstein, F. L. (2010). Adolescents reports of communication with their parents about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control: 1988, 1995, and 2002. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46, 532537. Robinson, B. E., Scheltema, K., & Cherry, T. (2005). Risky sexual behavior in low income African American women: The impact of sexual health variables Journal of Sex Research, 42 224 237. Ventura, S. (2009). Changing patterns of nonmarital childbearing in the United States. Center for Disease and Prevention NCHS Data Brief 18. Retrieved from CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db18.pdf White J., & Klein, D. (2002). Family Theories: Understanding Control families (2nd ed.). California: Sage Publications. Whittemore, R., Chase, S.K. & Mandle, C.L. (2001) Validity in qualitative re search. Qualitative Health Research, 11, 522 537.

PAGE 92

92 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Phedra Smith was born in Pensacola, Fl orida. Her family includes her husband: Patrick Smith, her parents: Felisha and Larry Young, and her younger sibling: Lawrence Young. Phedra grew up with a large extended family and a very close church family where volunteering and helping families and youth in need was ingrained in her heart. This led to Phedras interests and study in Family, Youth and Community Sciences. As an undergraduate, Ph edra attended the University of Florida because of its strong history and diversity in many areas of studies She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the Department of Family, Youth & Community Sciences. Her u ndergraduate experience and her post educ ational professional experience prompted her to continue her education with a Master of Science in Family, Youth & Community Sciences. Phedra plans to seek out career opportunities that will allow her to continue her education and use her knowledge to help those in need.