Early to Bed: Psychosocial Predictors of Sexual Initiation and High-risk Sexual Behaviors in Early Adolescence
This thesis examines psychosocial factors associated with risky sexual behavior in early
adolescence with the intention to inform development of adolescent sexual education programs.
Through a longitudinal study, data were collected through a self-report survey, the Social
and Health Assessment (SAHA), which was administered in three waves between 2001 and 2003
to a cohort of incoming sixth grade students in the public school system (149 classes at 17
middle and high schools, N=1,175) of a small northeastern city in the United States.
We first examined whether internalizing and externalizing problems in sixth grade, and
the rate of change in these factors during middle school, were predictive of sexual initiation two
years later, when most of the sample was in eighth grade. We then assessed whether
internalizing and externalizing problems in sixth grade, and the rate of change in these factors
during middle school, were predictive of engaging in high risk sexual behavior over the
subsequent two years.
Externalizing factors are more predictive of sexual risk in early adolescence than are
internalizing factors. Specifically, substance use and violent delinquency over the course of
middle school were associated with higher, while anxiety with lower, sexual initiation rates
during middle school. Additionally, increased substance use over the course of middle school
was associated with greater likelihood of engaging in high risk sexual behavior.
By identifying particular psychosocial risk factors among young adolescents, the findings
of this study support the design of comprehensive youth development programs targeted at highrisk
middle school students as a means of preventing health-compromising sexual behavior
among young teens.
School Location:USA - Connecticut
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:externalization sexual risk taking internalization united states sex education adolescent sexuality adolescence behavior
Date of Publication:01/05/2009