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Condom Failure: Examining the Objective and Cultural Meanings Expressed in Interviews With African American Adolescents



The purpose of this study was to explore the meaning and context of self-reported “condom failure” among sexually active African American adolescents. Semistructured interviews regarding methods of protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) with 124 youth (ages 14-19 years) were content analyzed. The findings suggested three meanings of condom failure. First, condom failure represents a legitimate and important risk related to sexual activity. Second, it can serve as an excuse repertoire for adolescents who engaged in unprotected sex and later experienced either pregnancy or a STD. Third, it may serve as an explanation for males who deceive their partners into having unprotected sex. The findings are discussed with regard to their implications for HIV or STD prevention and research.


  • Michael P. Carey
  • Ralph J. DiClemente
  • Jennifer Horner
  • Daniel Romer
  • Laura F. Salazar
  • Sharon R. Sznitman
  • Robert F. Valois
  • Peter A. Vanable