Boys’ Perceived, Actual Condom Knowledge Possibly Related to Use During First Intercourse, Study Says
Teenage boys who believe they know how to use condoms properly but actually do not are less likely to use condoms the first time they have sexual intercourse than boys who are better informed about condom use and boys who have a low level of condom knowledge but are aware of their lack of knowledge, according to a study published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Ellen Rock and colleagues from the University of Minnesota studied data gathered from interviews of a nationally representative sample of 404 boys ages 15 to 17 who reported being virgins at the first interview but having had sex one year later. At the first interivew, the boys were asked five questions to assess their objective knowledge about proper condom use and then were asked how sure they were of their answers to determine their perceived knowledge about condom use. Boys were considered to have high objective knowledge about condom use if they answered at least four questions correctly and low objective knowledge if they answered three or fewer questions correctly. Boys who had both low objective knowledge and low perceived knowledge about condom use and boys who had high objective knowledge were similarly likely to report condom use at first sexual intercourse, with about 37% to 44% reporting condom use. However, only 18% of participants who had low objective knowledge about condom use but high perceived knowledge reported using a condom during first intercourse. Overall, during the second round of interviews, about 40% of the participants reported using condoms -- sometimes in combination with other contraceptive methods -- during first intercourse.
Recognize Knowledge Gaps Earlier
Although Rock said the issue requires further research, she hypothesized that one possible way to increase condom use could be for health care providers to determine discrepancies between teens' objective and perceived knowledge by directly asking them what they know about proper condom use. In addition, sex educators could assess teens' perceived knowledge at the beginning of programs by asking fact-based questions and having teens rate their confidence in their answers (Norton, Reuters Health, 3/8).