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Original Research

Heterosexual female adolescents’ decision-making about sexual intercourse and pregnancy in rural Ontario, Canada

Submitted: 15 July 2015
Revised: 17 November 2015
Accepted: 17 November 2015
Published: 30 January 2016

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Author(s) : Ezer P, Leipert B, Evans M, Regan S.

Paulina EzerBev LeipertMarilyn EvansSandra Regan

Citation: Ezer P, Leipert B, Evans M, Regan S.  Heterosexual female adolescents’ decision-making about sexual intercourse and pregnancy in rural Ontario, Canada. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3664. Available: (Accessed 19 October 2017)


Introduction: Rural female adolescents experience unique circumstances to sexual health care and information as compared to urban adolescents. These circumstances are largely due to their more isolated geographical location and rural sociocultural factors. These circumstances may be contributing factors to an incidence of adolescent pregnancy that is higher in rural areas than in urban cities. Thus, this higher incidence of pregnancy may be due to the ways in which rural adolescents make decisions regarding engagement in sexual intercourse. However, the rural female adolescent sexual decision-making process has rarely, if ever, been studied, and further investigation of this process is necessary. Focusing on rural female adolescents aged 16–19 years is especially significant as this age range is used for reporting most pregnancy and birth statistics in Ontario.
a href=#methods>Methods:  Charmaz’s guidelines for a constructivist grounded theory methodology were used to gain an in-depth understanding of eight Ontario rural female adolescents’ decision-making process regarding sexual intercourse and pregnancy, and how they viewed rural factors and circumstances influencing this process. Research participants were obtained through initial sampling (from criteria developed prior to the study) and theoretical sampling (by collecting data that better inform the categories emerging from the data). Eight participants, aged 16–19 years, were invited to each take part in 1–2-hour individual interviews, and four of these participants were interviewed a second time to verify and elaborate on emerging constructed concepts, conceptual relationships, and the developing process. Data collection and analysis included both field notes and individual interviews in person and over the telephone. Data were analyzed for emerging themes to construct a theory to understand the participants’ experiences making sexual decisions in a rural environment.
Results: The adolescent sexual decision-making process, Prioritizing Influences, that emerged from the analysis was a complex and non-linear process that involved prioritizing four influences within the rural context. The influences that participants of this study described as being part of their sexual decision-making process were personal values and circumstances, family values and expectations, friends’ influences, and community influences. When influences coincided, they strengthened participants’ sexual decisions, whereas when influences opposed each other, participants felt conflicted and prioritized the influence that had the most effect on their personal lives and future goals. Although these influences may be common to all adolescents, they impact the rural female adolescent sexual decision-making process by influencing and being influenced by geographical and sociocultural factors that make up the rural context.
Conclusions:  This study reveals important new and preliminary information about rural female adolescents’ sexual decision-making process and factors that affect it. Findings improve understanding of how rural female adolescents make choices regarding sexual intercourse and pregnancy and can be used to guide future research projects that could facilitate effective development of sexual health promotion initiatives, inform rural health policy and practices, and enhance existing sexual education programs in rural communities.

Key words: adolescents, Canada, constructivist grounded theory, females, pregnancy, rural health, sexual health, sexual intercourse.

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