Associations Between Agency and Sexual and Reproductive Health Communication in Early Adolescence: A Cross-cultural, Cross-sectional Study

Leah R. Koenig, Mengmeng Li, Linnea A. Zimmerman, Patrick Kayembe, Chaohua Lou, Eric Mafuta, José Ortiz, Caroline Moreau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: To assess the extent to which adolescents aged 10–14 have communicated about sexual relationships, pregnancy, and contraception and how agency in the form of voice and decision-making along with an enabling socioecological environment are associated with sexual and reproductive health (SRH) communication. Methods: Using data from the Global Early Adolescent Study, we included 1,367, 697, and 1,424 adolescents in Kinshasa, Cuenca, and Shanghai, respectively. Patterns of SRH communication and agency levels were described by site and sex. Multivariable logistic regressions assessed odds of SRH communication first in relation to socioecological characteristics and second with levels of agency, after adjustment for social environmental factors. Interaction terms tested sex differences in associations. Results: Experiences of SRH communication ranged from one in ten in Kinshasa to about half in Cuenca. Pregnancy was the most discussed SRH topic. Socioecological factors consistently related to SRH communication included older age and pubertal onset, while others varied by context. In multivariable analyses, voice was linked to all forms of SRH communication in Kinshasa and Cuenca with adjusted odds ratios ranging from 1.6 to 2.2, but not in Shanghai. In Cuenca, decision-making was associated with a 50% and 60% increase in odds of communication about pregnancy and contraception, respectively. In Kinshasa, a stronger association between voice and pregnancy discussions was observed for girls than boys. Conclusions: Developmental characteristics and voice were linked to communication about SRH among young adolescents across two contexts. Results suggest agency may play a role in shaping antecedents, like communication, to sexual behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-424
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Agency
  • Communication
  • Early adolescence
  • Empowerment
  • Sexual and reproductive health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Associations Between Agency and Sexual and Reproductive Health Communication in Early Adolescence: A Cross-cultural, Cross-sectional Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this