Relationships with Young Men and Age-Mates are Considered 'Risky' by Women in Cape Town

Posted on Mon, Nov 18 2013 10:13:00

Researchers have noted that young women in relationships with older men are typically at an elevated risk for acquisition of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, most qualitative studies have tended to focus on why women are motivated to participate in these relationships, offering little insight into perceived risks of these relationships. To this end, the authors conducted in-depth interviews with 23 women recruited from three urban communities in Cape Town, South Africa. Thematic content analysis was used to explore women's perceived risks of age-disparate and non-age-disparate relationships, the benefits of dating older men, and risk perceptions that influence decisions around beginning or ending a relationship. Most women thought that dating an older man does not bring any adverse consequences, although a few thought that older men were less likely to use condoms and more likely to cheat on them. Many women were less inclined to date same-age or younger men, because they were viewed as being disrespectful and abusive. The authors demonstrate a need for more awareness raising about the risks of age-disparate relationships and call for more research on the association between intimate partner violence (IPV) and age gaps between sexual partners. In addition, there is an urgent need to implement holistic approaches to relationship health, in order to curb IPV, improve gender equity and make non-age-disparate relationships more attractive.

Beauclair R, Delva W. Is younger really safer? A qualitative study of perceived risks and benefits of age-disparate relationships among women in Cape Town, South Africa. PLoS ONE. 2013; 8(11): e81748.