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Studying Adolescent Male Sexuality: Where Are We?

Abstract

This article critically reviews the literature about adolescent males’ sexuality in order to describe the state of the science and to identify promising concepts and research designs that have the potential to guide the next generation of research. A critique was conducted on 94 peer-reviewed studies of sexual behaviors that included a sample of adolescent males; 11 scholarly texts and 2 dissertations. Most studies lacked a theoretical foundation and had cross-sectional designs. For those studies with a theoretical base, 3 perspectives were most often used to guide research: cognitive, biological, or social-environmental. Studies frequently relied on older adolescents or young adult males to report behaviors during early adolescence. Male-only samples were infrequent. Findings include (a) the measurement of sexual activity is frequently limited to coitus and does not explore other forms of “sex”; (b) cognitive factors have been limited to knowledge, attitudes, and intent; (c) little is known about younger males based on their own self-reports; (d) little is known about the normative sexuality development of gay adolescent males; and (e) longitudinal studies did not take into account the complexities of biological, social, and emotional development in interaction with other influences. Research on adolescent sexuality generally is about sexual activity, with little research that includes cognitive competency or young males’ sense of self as a sexual being. The purpose of the paper is to critically review the literature about male sexuality in order to describe the state of the science as well as to identify potential directions to guide the next generation of adolescent male sexual being research.

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Correspondence to Laureen H. Smith.

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Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at Oakland University. Received her PhD in Nursing from the University of Michigan, with a specialization in Health Promotion and Risk Reduction. Research interests include adolescent health behaviors, male sexuality, and fostering youth through community-based, asset-building interventions.

Associate Professor and Director for Undergraduate & Non Traditional Programs in the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan. Inducted as a Fellow in the Academy of American Nurses. Received a PhD in Nursing from New York University. Research interests include female adolescent health and health-compromising behaviors, specifically the influence of contextual environments on adolescents’ participation in health promoting or health-compromising behaviors.

Professor Emeritus in the School of Nursing and Center for Nursing Research at the University of Michigan. Received a PhD in Public Health from the University of Michigan. Research interests include women’s and men’s contraceptive use behaviors, development of nursing in China, and health policy.

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Smith, L.H., Guthrie, B.J. & Oakley, D.J. Studying Adolescent Male Sexuality: Where Are We?. J Youth Adolescence 34, 361–377 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-005-5762-5

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Key Words

  • male adolescent
  • sexuality
  • sexual activity
  • adolescence
  • sexual being
  • sexual behavior