Mary A. Ott

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Developmental & Relationship Contexts of Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Mary Ott’s research examines adolescent health and development with a focus on sexual behavior, unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Dr. Ott started with a rigorous scientific examination of sexual abstinence as a health decision. Abstinence had become a highly politicized primary approach to reducing adolescent pregnancy, yet our scientific understanding of how adolescents made decisions about abstinence was limited. Dr. Ott’s interdisciplinary research program advances our understanding of how development, relationships and social contexts influence adolescent abstinence decisions. Four linked studies use a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods that are drawn from psychology, sociology, anthropology, and medicine. Her research findings have been translated into practice on several levels: (1) a developmental framework for office-based counseling; (2) evaluation and improvement of Indiana RESPECT, an abstinence-focused public health education program; and (3) research findings have been directly incorporated into Society for Adolescent Medicine policy statements.

Dr. Ott’s current research is a developmental examination of how adolescent boys’ make decisions about romantic and sexual relationships, and the impact of those decisions on STIs. Results suggest important roles for families in STI prevention, and identify patterns of communication that can inform both office-based STD prevention counseling and STD prevention programs.

She has provided technical assistance and consultation in adolescent health for several community organizations. For example, focus groups with Indiana youth across the state on their health related priorities provided important youth input to the Indiana Coalition to Improve Adolescent Health for the first Indiana state health plan for adolescents.

Professor Ott’s long-term goal is to inform and improve interventions that promote healthy sexual development and prevent adolescent unintended pregnancy and STIs.

Dr. Ott’s contributions to better understanding adolescent health and decision-making is an example of how IUPUI's faculty members are TRANSLATING their RESEARCH INTO PRACTICE.