Ethnic Identity, Womanist Identity, and Young Adult Latinas’ Safe Sex Practices
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Young Latina women are at risk for unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections. Researchers have suggested that factors such as self-efficacy and relationship power dynamics may contribute to difficulty in negotiating safe sex practices. For women in heterosexual relationships, the most common prevention practice--condom use--requires partner cooperation. Sociocultural variables related to gender role socialization can adversely affect a woman's ability to negotiate condom use. I developed and tested a model of sociocultural predictors of Latina women's safe sex practices. The predictors included ethnic identity, acculturation, womanist identity, gender role attitudes, sexual self-efficacy, and sexual relationship power. I surveyed 210 young adult Latina women via an online survey that was disseminated across the United States via social networking websites and email. I used path analysis to investigate the fit of the hypothesized model with the data, first to predict condom use and second to predict sexual history exploration. Results indicated that the hypothesized model predicting the safe sex practice of exploring a partner's sexual history had a good fit to the data, whereas the model predicting condom use did not provide an adequate fit to the data. These findings suggest that young adult Latinas' exploration of a partner's sexual history is more likely to occur when women have stronger ethnic identity and womanist identity, more egalitarian gender role attitudes, and higher levels of partner dominance and control in their relationship. The model accounted for 16% of the variance in sexual history exploration. Although the variance explained was low, this model is still informative of the factors that contribute to sexual history exploration. Exploring a potential partner's history is an important aspect of safe sex practices that can have major implications for healthy sexual decision-making. Understanding an individual's cultural identity via ethnic and womanist identity, as well as considering sociocultural (e.g., gender role attitudes) and interpersonal (e.g., relationship power) factors, can inform prevention efforts that will contribute to safe sex behavioral outcomes. Other factors that may contribute to safe sex practice outcomes that were not accounted for by the models are noted. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.