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  • Background to the Study

The world's population attained a new milestone in 2011 when it reached 7 billion (UNFPA, 2011). Young people aged between 10-24 years make up about a quarter of the total world population. However, in the developing countries these young people between the ages of 10-24 years make up about 25% of the population, a far greater proportion than in the developed countries because of the high fertility rates (Sawyer et al., 2012a).

Adolescents otherwise known as young people are important segment of Nigerian society where it makes up over a third (31.6 percent) of Nigeria’s large and growing population (National Population Commission, 2013). Adolescents are generally defined as meaningful, young persons under various laws, conventions and culture, who are within the ages of 10-19 and 10- 24 years old according to World Health Organization (WHO, 2001). It is a period of life from puberty to attainment of full maturity (adulthood) or growth, a time of being young when one’s appearance is full of freshness, vigour and young spirit. Adolescents also share certain characteristics that distinguish them from other generation. Such characteristic include, desire for independence, zealousness, radicalism, rebellions, curiosity, sexual risk behaviours, etc. It is both a period of opportunity as well as a time of vulnerability- a time of experimentation with new ideas and options and marked with vulnerability to health risk and those related to unsafe reproductive health outcomes.

One in five Africans and one in three African adolescents live in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. Nigeria’s birth rate for adolescents is one of the highest in the world, and the prevalence among female adolescents in Nigeria of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, is climbing rapidly.1 In an effort to reduce its high maternal and infant mortality and high rates of sexually transmitted infection and dropout from school, Nigeria developed a national reproductive health policy in 2000 that focuses on preventing risky sexual behaviours during adolescence (WHO, 2001).

Until recently, adolescents in Nigeria were seen as a healthy segment of the population and received low priority for services. But biology and society bring on additional health challenges to them; those resulting from unprotected sex, violence and substance abuse. Ahonsi (2013) posited that adolescents in Nigeria have high burden of reproductive health problems. This assertion supported earlier surveys conducted on sexual behaviours of Nigerian Adolescents (National Demographic Health Survey, 2008; National HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health Survey 2007; Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance Survey, 2010) which show that Nigerian adolescent (15‐19) almost half of the females (46.2%) and about a quarter of males (22.1%) have engaged in sexual intercourse. This figure varies from state to state. For some states like Cross Rivers it can be as early as 7 years (Diala, Olujimi, Harri&Feyisetan, 2011).

The programme has been hampered, however, by outdated and incomplete information on the sexual knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of adolescents in Nigeria. The importance of clarifying needs before intervening is highlighted by the recent evaluation of a sex education intervention in Nigeria and Ghana (Brieger, Delano, Lane, Oladepo and Oyediran, 2001). The evaluation showed that the programme was effective for young people in school but not for young people out of school, because of differences in sexual experience and knowledge. Had the differences been recognised earlier, modification of the intervention or narrowing the target population might have improved the effectiveness and lowered the cost of the overall programme.

In addition to the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), risk of unplanned pregnancy increases with frequency of unprotected sexual intercourse. Estimates have suggested approximately 23% of adolescent girls have begun childbearing while 54% have given birth to a child by age 20. Hospital based studies also show that adolescent girls make up over 60% of women treated for complications from unsafe abortion—many resulting in death or permanent injury or infertility (Federal Ministry of Health, 2009). Adeyemo and Agokei (2008) posited that female adolescents often consider risky sexual behaviours as an elevation of status rather than being vicious. These patterns broadly conform to data from across Africa which suggests that the combination of being young, poor, female and lacking access to sexual health information and services carry particularly high risks for sexual reproductive health challenges (UNICEF, 2011; UNAIDS, 2011; Coutinho, 2004).

1.2 Statement of Research Problem

The increase in young peoples‘(10-24 years) population coincides with a reduction in death from infectious diseases, malnutrition, infant and early childhood mortality shifting attention to sexual and reproductive health, substance misuse, mental health, injury and chronic diseases which becomes prominent during adolescence. This group of people which is supposed to be the driving force for economic growth of the nations is at the centre of the global HIV epidemic. Globally, reports on HIV epidemics have indicated that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years accounted for about 45% of new cases in 2009 (UNAIDS, 2009). Most of the infection among this age group occurs mainly through risky sexual behaviour. HIV has contributed substantially to reducing the chances of young people reaching the age of 60 years in many countries. Despite this, most national HIV programmes neglect this group of people in the planning and implementation of their national AIDS programes. Though most young people are largely healthy, a greater number still engage in behaviours that jeopardize not only their current state of health, but often their health for years to come (UNAIDS, 2009). Some of these behaviours include unprotected sex, illicit drug use and violence.

Worrisome still is data from the Federal Ministry of Education (2009) which found that 21% of upper primary school children surveyed indicated they have been involved in sexual intercourse yet only 40.6% who had two or more sexual partners in the past 12 months reported using a condom during their last sexual intercourse (National Demographic health Survey, 2008). Young people are clearly disproportionately affected by the epidemic in absolute terms even with the decline in overall HIV prevalence from 5.8% in 2001 to about 3.4% in 2012. The survey indicated that 2.9 per cent young people aged 15-19 years are infected while female adolescents aged 15-24 is most disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic among the 4-broad age-gender categories of the sub-population (National HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Health Survey-Plus (NARHS Plus), 2012).

Sexual risk behaviour, like other problematic behaviours of adolescents has been extensively studied for decades as earlier noted. However, the research that has been accumulated thus far still leaves some several important issues unaddressed. First, most existing literatures on adolescents assumed that adolescents are homogenous population, on the contrary, adolescents and young people are heterogeneous, they vary enormously by age, sex, marital status, class, religion, and cultural context. Sexual and Reproductive Health needs may vary considerably across these different groups, cultures and regions. One of such regions where variability is likely to exist is Niger Delta Region (NDR) of Nigeria.

1.3 Research Objectives

The main objective of the study was to assess the level of awareness and knowledge of sexual behavior among adolescents and undergraduate students in Akure, Ondo State.

The specific objectives of this study are to:

  1. a) Examine the demographic factors of the respondents. These include sex, age, religion, class, marital status, socio-economic status, and family type in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state.
  2. b) Examine the sexual behavior and practice of the respondents in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state.
  3. c) Determine the relationship between socio-economic factors and their sexual acts among the students in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state.
  4. d) Assess the level of awareness of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) among adolescents in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. a) What are the demographic factors of the respondents. These include sex, age, religion, class, marital status, socio-economic status, and family type in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state?
  2. b) What is the sexual behavior and practice of the respondents in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state?
  3. c) What is the relationship between socio-economic factors and their sexual acts among the students in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state?
  4. d) What is the level of awareness of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) among adolescents in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo state?

1.5 Significance of the study

Interest in the reproductive health of adolescents continues to grow throughout the world. One of the factors responsible for this interest is the sheer number of young person’s worldwide. For example, nearly half of the global population is less than 25 years old (UN, 2004).

Addressing the reproductive health information and service needs of this population poses significant challenges for policy makers and service providers especially those working in resource poor settings. The fact that adolescents and other young persons are disproportionately affected by the reproductive health morbidity such as abortion, sexually transmitted infections (STI) including HIV/AIDS draws attention to the need of appropriate interventions. Adolescents account for a significant proportion of unsafe abortions globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) at least one-third of all women seeking hospital-care for abortion complications are under the age of 20 years (Barnet, 2014).

Adolescents are also one of the groups hard hit by HIV/AIDS. Over half of all new HIV infections in Africa in 2005 were among young persons aged 14–25 years with the worst hit being young women (Piot, 2005). These data underscore the need to target adolescents with appropriate interventions that address not only the contextual factors such as gender roles and poverty that place them at risk but also individual factors including lack of access to knowledge, inadequate communication and life skills that adolescents need to negotiate safe sex. In Nigeria, as elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, studies confirm that a large proportion of adolescents have unmet reproductive health needs. Evidence of unmet need is reflected in the fact that some adolescents and other young person’s lack adequate knowledge and understanding of the reproductive process, that many harbor misconceptions such as the belief that mosquitoes can transmit HIV infection, and false claims that use of contraceptives can cause infertility (Ekweozor, Olaleye, Tomori ,Saliu, Essien, Bakare, Oni, Oyewo, Okesola and Oyemenen, 2013)

Although these researches have contributed to our understanding of the reproductive health behavior of young persons in Nigeria, the utility of the data is undermined by the fact that these studies were derived mainly from the southern parts of the country. Few studies have been conducted among young Nigerians living in the northern areas of the country. One recent study from Plateau, a predominantly Christian state in north central Nigeria, shows that many students participate in risky sexual activities including sexual networking and low use of condoms. The findings of this study will be used to plan appropriate interventions that enhance the reproductive health knowledge, service, and skills needs of the adolescents living in this part of the country.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The study was aim at finding the sexual behavior among secondary school students in Maria Goretti, Obowo, Imo State.

This study had the following limitations, which would be considered while interpreting the results:

  1. As this study was conducted on adolescents, the generalizability of the findings would be very much limited to only secondary school students ranging from JSS1-SS2. This was taken into consideration while interpreting the results.
  2. The instrument used in this study was a questionnaire. This study had therefore all the limitations of a questionnaire such as limitation of responses to only questions asked in the questionnaire and misunderstanding of question asked by the interviewer.
  3. Due to time and economic constraints, it was not possible to use a combination of both interview and discussion to verify all data collected from the adolescents.

1.7 Operational Definitions

1) Puberty: This is a sexual characteristic possessed by adolescents.

2) Treponemapallidum – bacteria that causes syphilis.

3) Income: wages earned by a person.

4) Erotic: Tending to arouse sexual desire.

5) Behaviour: This is an act exhibited by a person.

6) Heterosexuality: sexual attraction towards opposite sex.

7) Homosexuality: sexual attraction toward the same sex.

8) Adolescent: that period of psychosexual development between the onset of sexual maturation (puberty) and early adulthood.

9) Sexuality: Is the life long process of acquiring information and forming habit, beliefs and values about identifying relationships and intimacy.

10) Sexual Behaviour: define as outward expression of one’s feelings about sexual issues. It is also a behaviour that produces arousal and increases the chances of orgasm.



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