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Revista de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 0124-0064


SANCHEZ, Lilián et al. Social representations of having a boy/girlfriend in adolescents still in school from low, middle and high social strata in Bogotá. Rev. salud pública [online]. 2011, vol.13, n.1, pp.79-88. ISSN 0124-0064.

Objectives Studying the significance of having a boy/girlfriend by social representations theory. Identifying participants' convergence and difference around a figurative nuclei, focusing on representation by socio-economic strata and gender. Methods A qualitative interpretative approach was adopted. Three schools from different socio-economic strata were used for observation, network association, in-depth interviews and group workshops. Intra-strata, intra-gender and participant triangulation allowed convergent and divergent results to be verified. Results Having a boy/girlfriend (courtship) in all three strata was considered part of adolescents' life projects aimed at becoming independent from the family, successfully obtaining a job and forming a family in future adult life. Thus, having a boy/girlfriend was not a priority and was seen more as an emotional learning experience. Sexuality was seen as something to be postponed due to the risks of pregnancy. Differences by strata focused on economic obstacles to or chances for achieving goals. Gender differences were found between low and high strata. Girls having low economic status were more conservative, resented greater social control and their loss of independence compared to girls from high socioeconomic strata who demanded their independence and criticised traditional models. Boys having low economic status were more traditional than their upper strata counterparts and the suffering involved in having a girlfriend was linked to infidelity. Suffering in having a boy/girlfriend was linked to such relationship breaking up for upper and middle strata. Masculinity regarding having a boy/girlfriend was affirmed in all strata. Discussion Emphasis should be placed on designing social policies helping these young people to achieve their future goals, especially teenagers from lower socioeconomic strata who face economic, social and cultural disadvantages.

Keywords : Social perception; adolescent; sexuality; qualitative research.

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