Data Management and Visualization: Research Question

This post is a part of an online course through Wesleyan University on called Data Management and Visualization. I have decided to enroll in this course to learn more about data & data visualization, with the hopes of incorporating data analysis into my future career. 

After looking through the AddHealth Codebook, I want to focus on safe sex among teenagers. Having done previous qualitative research in this area of sex education in the U.S., I want to expand upon it with more quantitative data.

Looking through the questionnaire, I was a bit overwhelmed by the possible directions I could follow in exploring this topic. Ultimately, I have decided to investigate the correlations between the frequency of (safe) sex among teenagers and their self-perception – the teens’ confidence in themselves and their knowledge of safe sex practices.

Some my questions surrounding this topic are:

  1. Do they feel confident and capable of having safe sex?
  2. Do they feel confident in their knowledge of safe sex practices? 
  3. Do they feel pressure to have unsafe sex from their own self, friends/family, or the media?


My research revealed some previous studies around this topic; some of which were conflicting.  

A Kaiser Family Foundation (1) found that actual peer pressure has very little to do with kids having sex for the first time; it is often what kids think their friends are doing that is more persuasive.  

“50% of young people who had sex at age 17 or younger, state that they felt pressure to become sexually active because of other people’s rumored sexual activity” - 2014, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (2). 

However, an Indiana University School of Medicine study in 2002 (3), found that self-esteem played the most important role in dictating when and by whom sexual intercourse is initiated by kids. They found that boys and girls reacted inversely to their confidence – girls with higher self esteem would wait to have sex, whereas boys of the same age would engage in sex earlier. This is possibly related to preconceived gender roles in relation to sex in Western society. I also read one study that said, "sexual activity or virginity was not related to self-esteem in either males or females" (4). There is obviously a lot to explore here. 

Also, The Guttemacher Institute (5) has done quite a bit of research into the correlation between social perception and a teenager's first sexual experience. I also would find it interesting to know how partner-to-partner communication (6) impacts safe sex practices for teens. 

Hypothesis: I believe that teen sex and safe sex practices have a direct relationship to teens’ confidence, both in themselves and any knowledge they have. Teens that have higher confidence in themselves and in safe sex practices will be more likely to use protection when having sex. 



(1) Allen, Colin. "Peer Pressure and Teen Sex." Psychology Today. Psycology Today, 1 May 2003. Web. 27 Dec. 2015.

(3) "Early Intercourse and Self-esteem Linked in Adolescent Behavior."EurekAlert! INDIANA UNIVERSITY, 30 Apr. 2002. Web. 26 Dec. 2015.

(2) MI Science Department Staff, and Freda Bush, Medica. "Virginity Revisited | Medical Institute for Sexual Health." Medical Institute for Sexual Health RSS. Medical Institute for Sexual Health, 11 June 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.

(4) Robinson, RB, and DI Frank. "The Relation between Self-esteem, Sexual Activity, and Pregnancy." National Center for Biotechnology Information. Florida A&M University, 1994. Web. 25 Dec. 2015.

(5) Sieving, Renee E., Marla E. Eisenberg, Sandra Pettingell, and Carol Skay. "Friends' Influence on Adolescents' First Sexual Intercourse."Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 38.1 (2006): n. pag.Guttmacher Institute. Web. 25 Dec. 2015.

(6) Whitaker, Daniel J., Kim S. Miller, David C. May, and Martin L. Levin. "Teenage Partners' Communication About Sexual Risk and Condom Use: The Importance of Parent-Teenager Discussions." Family Planning Perspectives 31.3 (1999): 117. Web.