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International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health

Editor-in-Chief: Merrick, Joav

Editorial Board: Birch, Diana ML / Blum, Robert W. / Greydanus, MD, Dr. HC (Athens), Donald E. / Hardoff, Daniel / Kerr, Mike / Levy, Howard B / Morad, Mohammed / Omar, Hatim A. / de Paul, Joaquin / Rydelius, Per-Anders / Shek, Daniel T.L. / Sher, Leo / Silber, Tomas J. / Towns, Susan / Urkin, Jacob / Verhofstadt-Deneve, Leni / Zeltzer, Lonnie / Tenenbaum, Ariel

CiteScore 2018: 0.79

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.350
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.476

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Seeking sexual health information? Professionals’ novel experiences of the barriers that prevent female adolescents seeking sexual health information

Kerry McKellar
  • Corresponding author
  • Psychology and Communication Technology (PaCT) Lab, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Northumberland Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK, Phone: +44 (0)191 227 3716
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
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/ Linda Little
  • Psychology and Communication Technology (PaCT) Lab, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Northumberland Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
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/ Michael A. Smith
  • Psychology and Communication Technology (PaCT) Lab, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Northumberland Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
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/ Elizabeth Sillence
  • Psychology and Communication Technology (PaCT) Lab, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Northumberland Building, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
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Published Online: 2017-07-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijamh-2016-0118



Sexual health professionals are key stakeholders in implementing sexual health intervention programmes, yet their views are largely absent from the literature. Sexual health professionals provide a unique perspective on teen sexual health issues as they engage in confidential discussions with a wide range of teenagers. This study aimed to provide an in-depth exploration of professionals’ perceptions of teenagers’ sexual health information seeking practices and barriers. Furthermore, the research provided a unique re-examination of key predictors of risky sexual behaviours, which have been highlighted by previous research.


Nine semi-structured interviews were undertaken with sexual health professionals to explore their perceptions of teenagers’ sexual health information seeking practises and barriers. Subsequently the professionals rank ordered the 57 factors identified in previous research in terms of their perceived importance in predicting risky sexual behaviours.


Four themes emerged: “society and media”; “environment and family”; “peer influences”; and “the self”. The rank order task confirmed that 33 of the 57 factors were perceived as highly important by sexual health professionals.


Society, peers, environment and family are perceived as barriers to teenagers seeking reliable sexual health information, but these are dependent on the individual person. An individual with higher self-esteem is more confident in seeking sexual health information and applying this knowledge appropriately. Self-esteem was also identified as a key perceived predictor of risky sexual behaviours. Therefore, there is scope for intervention programmes targeting self-esteem and knowledge, so teenagers have the confidence to seek out sexual health information and to make their own informed sexual health decisions.

Keywords: adolescents; self-esteem; sexual health

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About the article

Received: 2016-10-06

Accepted: 2017-02-12

Published Online: 2017-07-21

Citation Information: International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 20160118, ISSN (Online) 2191-0278, ISSN (Print) 0334-0139, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijamh-2016-0118.

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