Impact of self esteem on risky sexual behaviors among Nigerian adolescents

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Although improved knowledge is often the first approach in HIV prevention for adolescents, studies have shown that despite being well informed, adolescents still engage in risky sexual behavior (RSB). Low self-esteem has been considered to be a psychological explanation for behavioral problems, but little is known about the impact of self-esteem on RSB among adolescents in Nigeria. The purpose of this study was to determine whether adolescents with high self-esteem demonstrate lower RSB compared to those with low self-esteem. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 361 adolescents in 9 secondary schools in Jos Plateau, Nigeria. The Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale was used to measure self-esteem and the Brief HIV Screener (BHS) was used to measure RSB. All data were analyzed using SPSS 21. Chi square and odds ratios were calculated to determine differences in BHS questions based on predetermined low or high self-esteem categories. Independent t-test were utilized to determine difference in mean BHS scores based on self-esteem categories. Participants were 169 male (46.8%) and 192 female (53.2%) with a mean age of 16.9. Mean self-esteem score was 27.6 with no significant difference in self-esteem scores by gender. Adolescents with low self-esteem were 1.7 times more likely to be sexually active and had a higher mean BHS scores compared to adolescents with high self-esteem. Programs aimed at reducing RSB and in-turn HIV/AIDS should consider interventions to raise adolescents’ self-esteem.