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Research Summaries

All Research Summaries

Factors Predicting Safe-Sex Talk and Condom Use in Early Sexual Relationships

Original article authored by Ashlea Troth and Candida C. Peterson

The content of this journal article includes:


The authors discuss safe-sex talk as it pertains to condom use in early sexual relationships in Australia and the United States. This research summary will highlight the work the authors have done to explore:

  1. gender differences related to attitudes toward safe-sex communications

  2. the effects of parents' conflict resolution strategies relating to adolescents' willingness to discuss safe sex

  3. differences between virgins and youth with sexual experiences related to attitudes toward safe-sex communications

  4. parent-child communication and its effect on consistent condom use

Definitions and Measures

Family Conflict Resolution

Husbands and wives were asked to describe their partners' responses to behavior related to disagreements over important family issues.


Was measured using using a 30-item scale that categorized the respondent’s degree of difficulty with interpersonal situations as either positive or negative.

Safe-Sex Talk

Youth ranked their ability to discuss HIV and AIDS on a scale of 1 (totally disagree) to 6 (totally agree).

Sex Education

Was measured based on the extent to which parents have attempted to educate their children about sex in general and HIV in particular.

Condom Discussion and Use

Was only measured in youth who were engaging in penetrative sexual activity. Researchers measured the frequency of sexual partners' condom discussions and use.


The study’s key findings included:

  • Males were less willing to negotiate for safer sex than females.

  • Having a parent who avoided conflict situations with a son made the son less willing to discuss condom use and negotiate safer-sex.

  • Parents who have little involvement in their children's sexual education contribute to the children's unwillingness to discuss safer sex with their partners.

  • Parents did not engage in any substantial education or communication with their children about safe sex.

  • Positive attitudes toward discussing safer sex significantly predicted frequent use of condoms.

  • Youth need to be trained in assertion, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills in addition to being given basic information on the modes of spreading HIV infection or the mechanics of condom use.

  • Women and non-virgin men had more positive attitudes toward safer-sex communication.


Despite being well informed about sexual risks, many high school students feel unprepared to broach the topic of sexual safety with their partners before the first sexual encounter. This reluctance to discuss safety issues may lead to inadequate condom use throughout the adolescent's sexual life. A willingness to communicate with a sexual partner about safe-sex issues is dependent upon:

  • the individual's communication style

  • family communication history

  • personality

  • current circumstances


Troth and Peterson’s article stresses the following:

  • Parent-child communication is important as a positive factor in the child’s willingness to discuss safe sex with sexual partners and in the consistent use of condoms.

  • It is important that adolescents have strong assertion, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills. The role of the educator should include activities that can boost the youth’s assertiveness, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills.

  • Communication style and family communication can increase youths' willingness to discuss safe sex and condom use with their sexual partners.

    Ideas for increasing these skills are:

Troth, A. and Peterson, C.C., Factors Predicting Safe-Sex Talk and Condom Use in Early Sexual Relationships, Health Communication, 12(2), 195-218.