The Influence of Conversational Content on College Students’ Safe Sex Intentions: A Mixed Method Approach

  •  Lennie Donné    
  •  Carel Jansen    
  •  John Hoeks    


Even though health campaign designers are advised to specifically focus on triggering conversations between people about health issues, there is still a lot unknown about what aspects of a conversation may contribute to safe sex behavior and intentions. Empirical research in this field so far has mainly focused on conversational occurrence rather than conversational content, and where content is taken into account, this mostly concerns self-reports. In this mixed method study, we looked into the quantitative effects of real-life conversations about safe sex, triggered by a safe sex message, on college students’ intentions related to safe sex. We then used a qualitative analysis to try and identify content-related aspects that may be related to the quantitative effects. Two weeks after filling in a questionnaire on their safe sex-related intentions, participants (N = 24) were instructed to watch and talk about a safe sex video with a conversation partner of choice, followed by filling in a questionnaire. The conversational data were analyzed qualitatively. The results suggest that the conversations increased safe sex-related intentions compared to pretest scores, and that content-related aspects such as conversational valence, type of communication behavior and behavioral determinants were related to these effects. Thus, our findings provide enhanced insight into the social norms and behavioral patterns related to safe sex, and indicate that it is important to look at conversational content in detail rather than to focus on mere conversational occurrence or quantitative effects.

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