¡Hay que hablar sobre esto! [We need to talk about this]: Exploring the Relationship Between Contraceptive and Consent Knowledge, Sexual Self-efficacy and Psychological Distress Among Latino Adolescents

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Latino adolescents are a growing population in the US (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020), and they experience disproportionately high rates of unintended teen pregnancy, STIs and HIV (Guilamo-Ramos et al., 2012; Martin et al., 2021). Also, adolescents struggle with high rates of mental health issues (Bitsko et al., 2022; Merikangas et al., 2010). Some studies support that psychological distress plays a role in teens’ sexual behavior and sexual self-efficacy (Lehrer et al., 2006; Seth et al., 2009; Seth et al., 2011). Yet, few studies have looked at the association between aspects of sexual health and psychological distress within Latino teens. This study conducted secondary data analysis using baseline data from a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of El Camino, a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum developed by Child Trends. Participants consisted of 474 Latino adolescents (44.8% male and 53.1% female) and they completed electronic self-report surveys (mean age 16.55 years). 84.2% of the sample was foreign born and 15.8% was US born. Results indicated that there was a significant correlation between sexual self-efficacy and knowledge about contraception and sexual consent (r = .31, p < 0.001). There was a small significant correlation between sexual self-efficacy and psychological distress (r = .12, p < 0.001). Psychological distress did not moderate the relationship between knowledge and sexual self-efficacy. Interestingly, the interaction term between knowledge and gender was statistically significant (β = -0.44, SE = 0.09, p= <.001), indicating that the relationship between knowledge and sexual self-efficacy is stronger for males than for females. The findings support that Latino youth may benefit from interventions that strengthen their knowledge and sexual self-efficacy, despite differences in nativity status and levels of psychological distress. Future studies should consider potentially important cultural, societal, and relational factors that may further explain these results.