Relationship Between Health Locus of Control and Risky Sexual Behaviors Among Nigerian Adolescents

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HIV/AIDS knowledge has been rated as the most important factor for HIV prevention. However, studies have also shown that knowledge alone does not always translate into reduced risky sexual behavior (RSB). Health locus of control (HLC) categorized as perceived control over health status (internal locus of control) or attribution of health status to chance or fate (external health locus of control) is a psychological construct that has been shown to impact health outcomes including RSB. This study thus investigated the relationship between HLC and RSB among Nigerian adolescents. A cross-sectional survey design was employed among 361 adolescents from nine senior secondary schools selected through stratified random sampling from Jos, Plateau State Nigeria. Data were collected between August and October of 2008. Health Locus of Control Scale was used to categorize individuals into having either an internal or external HLC. RSB was assessed using the Brief HIV Screener (BHS). Descriptive statistics were computed and Mann-Whitney U test was used to determine differences in BHS scores by HLC categories. Odds ratios and adjusted odds ratios were calculated for individual BHS question responses based on HLC. Participants were 169 males (46.8%) and 192 females (53.2%) with a mean age of 16.9. When grouped into HLC categories, 141 were internal and 220 were external. The mean score on the BHS showed statistically significant difference based on HLC (p=0.01). Odds for using a condom during sexual intercourse were higher for adolescents with an internal HLC while adolescents with an external HLC had significantly higher RSB scores. Prevention programs targeted at adolescents should also aim to internalize their HLC.