Family Connectedness and Its Association With Sexual Risk-Taking Among Undergraduate Students at the University of Nairobi

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Florence WN Wachira
Muthoni Mathai
Dammas M Kathuku


Background: Universities have a student population in the age range of 17 to 25 years, 75 % of whom are sexually active, with the median age of sexual debut at age 18 years. About half of all students are involved in risky sexual behaviour. Many interventions have decreased sexual risk behaviour in the short-term, but there is need for multilevel prevention, including targeting improvements in family relationships for sustained change. Perceived positive family connectedness has been found to be related to reduced sexual risk-taking among adolescents and young adults.

Methods: This cross-sectional study evaluated the family connectedness and sexual behaviour of students aged 18 to 24 years at the University of Nairobi. There were 904 participants, both male and female, who were registered students of the University of Nairobi. After institutional and individual consent were granted, participants completed a self-administered questionnaire within their classes. The family subscale of the Hemingway Measure of Adolescent Connectedness was used to evaluate connectedness, and a sexual behaviour questionnaire was used to evaluate sexual risk-taking behaviour.

Results: Six hundred forty (70.8%) of the respondents were sexually active – 372 males and 268 females. High-risk sex was reported by 203 male respondents (54.6%) and 117 females (43.7%). Reportedly abstinent participants had higher family connectedness scores than those who were sexually active (P<.001), and participants who reported less sexual risk-taking had higher mean family connectedness scores than those with higher sexual risk-taking (P<.001).

Conclusion: Family connectedness had a significant influence on sexual risk-taking, and investment in family relationships could reduce risky sexual behaviour and potentially other risky behaviours among young adult university students.

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