Date of Defense:
February 13, 2014
Although research has begun to examine the constructs of sexual readiness and selectivity, no established definitions of each term and their contribution to sexual decision-making have been clearly delineate d in the literature. The purpose of this qualitative study is to describe, in adolescents’ own words, determinants of sexual readiness and different facets of sexual selectivity. Sexually experienced participants, aged 14-18 years, were part of an ongoing web-based intervention to promote healthy sexual decision-making. Participants made comments on message boards in response to six video vignettes addressing sexual readiness and selectivity. The purposive sample consisted of 75 adolescents who commented in response to at leas t one vignette (89% female, 58% non-Hispanic White, 12% African-American, 8% Asian-American, 3% Hispanic, 19% multi-racial). Comments were iteratively read, thematically coded, and organized until no new categories could be identified. Eight overarching themes were identified from teens’ comments: (1) sexual readiness for the first time ever versus with a new partner; (2) determinants of sexual readiness for the first time ever; (3) determinants of sexual readiness with a new partner; (4) general determinants of sexual readiness; (5) sexual selectivity with different partners; (6) facets of sexual selectivity for each occasion; (7) sexual agency versus passivity; and (8) why sex just happens. The present research extends positive sexual development frameworks by defining the constructs of sexual readiness and sexual selectivity, identifying determinants of sexual readiness, and identifying different facets of sexual selectivity. Sexual readiness and sexual selectivity can be considered key components of se xual decision-making. Conversations about sexual readiness and selectivity should be in corporated into sexual health programs for both sexually inexperienced and experienced youth.