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Gendered attitudes towards sexual relationships among adolescents attending nurse led sexual health clinics in England: a qualitative study

Hayter, Mark; Harrison, Christina


Mark Hayter

Christina Harrison


Aims.  This study aimed to explore gender differences in attitudes towards sexual relationships of adolescent attending nurse led sexual health clinics.

Background.  Nurse led sexual health clinics are at the forefront of promoting adolescent sexual health. To provide sensitive, effective and non‐judgemental care, nurses need to understand the complexities of adolescent sexual behaviour and the social factors that influence sexual relationships.

Design.  A qualitative, exploratory research design was used.

Methods.  Ten focus groups (five male and five female) involving sexual health clinic attendees aged between 14–16 years were conducted. Focus groups were asked to comment on four sexual relationship ‘case studies’. Group discussions were recorded and transcribed. Data were subject to thematic analysis.

Results.  Three themes emerged from the data analysis. ‘Empathy’ reflected how young women were more likely to try to see their partner’s point of view. ‘Complexity’ also reflected that young women were more aware of the complex nature of relationships than were the male participants. ‘Language’ related to how young males used aggressive language in the context of relationships – a feature absent from female participants’ discourse.

Conclusions.  Male and female attitudes clearly differ. Female responses are more complex and empathic because of the more complex nature of the social pressures that sexualise young women. Young males are not as subject to these social forces. Young men are socialised into behaviour that can place females under pressure to have sex – this pressure can include the use of alcohol.

Relevance to clinical practise.  Nurses working in sexual health should attempt to encourage empathic thinking in male clients. Females should be educated to deal with the social pressures they may face from their partners. Practitioners should also recognise the problematic role alcohol can play within sexual relationships.


Hayter, M., & Harrison, C. (2008). Gendered attitudes towards sexual relationships among adolescents attending nurse led sexual health clinics in England: a qualitative study. Journal of clinical nursing, 17(22), 2963-2971.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 11, 2008
Online Publication Date Oct 13, 2008
Publication Date 2008-11
Journal Journal of Clinical Nursing
Print ISSN 0962-1067
Electronic ISSN 1365-2702
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 17
Issue 22
Pages 2963-2971
Keywords Adolescents; Descriptive; Nurses; Nursing; Qualitative; Sexuality
Public URL
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