Date of Defense:
Overall rates of teen pregnancy and sexual activity have decreased in recent decades, following concerted public health efforts. However, the use of contraception and condoms among sexually active U.S. teens remains inadequate. Sexually active youth who do not use contraception or condoms are at increased risk of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection. Protective factors such as connectedness to family and school have been associated with decreased likelihood of sexual risk taking behaviors among youth. This paper examines three hypotheses: 1) consistent contraception use is more likely among sexually active teens who demonstrate discrete protective factors related to parents, school and faith communities; 2) sexually active teens who possess multiple protective factors have an increased odds of consistent contraception use; 3) communication with partners about sexual risk is a mediating factor between protective factors and teens’ consistent use of contraception. Data from 5,745 sexually active, Metro-area, 12^th -grade students were obtained from the 2004 Minnesota Student Survey. Chi-square analysis was used to examine the relationships between contraception use, protective factors and potential confounding effects of gender, race and age. Logistic regression models were used to examine the relationship between contraception use, protective factors and sexual partner communication. After adjustment for potential confounders, youth with high levels of connectedness to parents, school and religious communities were significantly more likely to be consistent users of contraception. Youth with multiple protective factors were more likely to be consistent users of contraception, and more likely to have communicated with partners about sexual risk. Qualitative assessment indicates that the association between protective factors and contraception use may be partially mediated by teens’ communication with partners about sexual risk. These findings are aligned with previous youth resiliency research. Results affirm the value of comprehensive youth development as a public health strategy for reducing teen sexual risk behaviors in the Metro-area, and comparable populations.