Adolescent sexual health is a major public health concern. Nearly 2/3 of premature deaths and 1/3 of the total adult disease burden is associated with conditions or behaviours that began in youth, including unsafe sexual behaviour.2 The latter is also a major contributor to disability adjusted life years lost for adolescents in nearly every region of the world.3 Contributing to adolescent health is crucial to improve community health status.
Evidence shows that the current focus on sexual risk reduction to improve adolescent sexual health is ‘too far downstream’ and little is known about upstream processes determining sexual health.
This proposal focusses on the role of gender socialization and its link to sexual health.
Understanding this process underpins any effort to empower girls/boys to determine their sexual health trajectories.
The project aims to contribute to adolescent sexual health globally, and in Flanders in particular.
Specifically, we will 1) study gender norms in relationships through in-depth interviews, 2) develop instruments to measure gender socialization and sexual health, 3) explore associations between gender socialization in early adolescence and its relation to sexual behaviours and sexual health outcomes in later adolescence by setting up a cohort of adolescents aged 11-13 years.
The proposal adds Flanders as a study site to a global consortium led by Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization, allowing for cross-cultural comparison.