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21-04-2020 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 6/2020

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 6/2020

Family Context and Adolescent Risky Sexual Behavior: an Examination of the Influence of Family Structure, Family Transitions and Parenting

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 6/2020
Megan E. Steele, Leslie Gordon Simons, Tara E. Sutton, Frederick X. Gibbons
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Considerable research has been devoted to understanding the influence of the family on adolescents’ risky sexual behavior, with primary focus being given to family structure, family transitions, or parenting. Using longitudinal data from the Family and Community Health Study (n = 550, 54% female, age 10.5 years at Wave 1), an African American sample, the current study goes beyond past research to examine the combined influence of all of these factors while also assessing a wider and more culturally sensitive array of family structures, family transitions, and mediators. Results demonstrated that while continuously married mother–father households were most efficacious in reducing risky sexual behavior for both males and females, mother–relative households, a common household configuration among African American families, were also beneficial for females compared to single-mother, mother–stepfather, and mother–cohabiting partner households. With regard to family transitions, mothers’ number of divorces as well as her number of cohabiting breakups were associated with an increase in adolescents’ risky sex. Family structure and family transition effects were partially mediated by hostile parenting, as well as adolescents’ sexual attitudes and affiliation with sexually active peers. Even after accounting for the impact of these mediators, however, family structure and transitions at age 13 continued to have an effect on participation in risky sex when adolescents were 18 years of age. These results indicate that an array of family factors combine to influence the probability of adolescent participation in risky sex over time.

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