The Influence of Religiosity as a Protective Factor in Sexual Behaviour among in-School Adolescents in Lagos State, Nigeria
The study assessed the level of internal and external dimensions of religiosity among in-school adolescents. It further determined sexual debut patterns and assessed the pattern of contraceptive use among the respondents. This was with a view to determining the relationship between religiosity and sexual behavioural pattern of the respondents. The study was cross-sectional in design. A sample of 1200 in-school adolescents was selected by multi-stage sampling technique across 15 secondary schools in three Local Government Areas of Lagos State. A 72-item questionnaire was developed, which elicited information on students' socio-demographic variables, knowledge of reproductive and sexual health, sexual behavioural patterns and the internal and external dimensions of religiosity. To measure internal level of religiosity the mean of two items for both Christian and Muslim respondents was found and categorised into high and low levels of internal religiosity: "how often do you pray by yourself alone?" and "how often do you read and meditate from the Holy Bible/Quo'ran or similar religious books on your own?". The responses to each of the two questions ranged from "hardly ever/never" (scored "1") to "at least once in a day" (scored "4"). However, external level of religiosity was measured separately for Christian and Muslim respondents. For Christian respondents, the mean response to items on religious practices was found and categorised into high and low levels of external religiosity. For Muslim respondents, the mean response to items about religious practices was found and categorised into high and low levels of external religiosity. The instrument was administered on the adolescents and sessions of Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were held in four groups to complement quantitative data. Data collected was analyzed using univariate (frequency and percentages), bivariate (Chi-square [x2] for contingency tables and Mann-Whitney U test for continuous variables with skewed distribution) and multivariate (Binary logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards regression) analyses. Odds Ratio (OR) and Hazard Ratio (HR) and the corresponding 95% Confidence Intervals (CI) and p-values were calculated separately for male and female respondents. The results showed that 60% of male adolescents demonstrated high level of internal religiosity while 58.3% demonstrated high level of external religiosity. Also, 67.3% and 64.3 % of female adolescents demonstrated high level of internal and external religiosity respectively. Twenty seven percent of males and 20% of females reported being sexually experienced. The median age of sexual debut was slightly but significantly lower for males than for females (14 years vs. 15 years; Mann-Whitney U=8201.000; p<0.05). On the other hand, qualitative analysis revealed that females initiated sex earlier than males (average of 10-14 years among females and 15-16 years among males). Fifty percent of males compared with 32.3% of females used modern contraceptives at the time of study (x2=9.506, p<0.05). Further results showed that male and female adolescents with high level of internal religiosity were significantly more likely to delay sexual initiation (male: x2=5.663, female: x2=14.415; p<0.05), compared with those with low level of internal religiosity. With regard to external religiosity, only males with high level of religiosity were significantly more likely to delay sexual initiation (x2=7.198, p>0.05). Results of multivariate analysis showed that internal religiosity was significantly associated with lower incidence of early sexual debut among females (OR =0.557, 95% CI = 0.355-0.876, p<0.05), while external religiosity was significantly associated with lower incidence of early sexual debut among males (OR =0.603, 95% CI = 0.398-0.914, p<0.05). Internal and external dimensions of religiosity were not associated with contraceptive use pattern among all the respondents (male: x2= 0.433 & 1.381; female: x2= 0.476 & 0.354; p>0.05) respectively. It was concluded that internal religiosity was a protective factor regarding sexual debut patterns among female secondary school students while external religiosity was a protective factor regarding sexual debut patterns among the males.