Urban Adolescent Girls' Perspectives on Multiple Partners in the Context of the Sexual Double Standard and Intimate Partner Violence

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This article describes the influence of abusive and nonabusive relationship dynamics on the number of sex partners among urban adolescent girls. Focus groups were conducted with 64 sexually active adolescent girls ages 14 to 17 years. General coding and content analyses identified patterns, themes, and salient beliefs. More than one third (37.5%) reported having experienced physical, intimate partner violence; 32.8% had two or more recent sex partners, and 37.5% had ever had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or HIV. Although some girls in abusive relationships feared retribution if they had more than one partner, others sought additional partners for solace or as an act of resistance. Adolescent HIV/STI prevention programs need to address the influence of gender norms such as the sexual double standard, as well as partner pressure and partner abuse on adolescent decision-making about safer sex, and also promote healthy relationships as integral to advancing HIV/STI risk reduction.

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