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30-12-2015 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 2/2016

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2/2016

Mechanisms That Link Parenting Practices to Adolescents’ Risky Sexual Behavior: A Test of Six Competing Theories

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 2/2016
Leslie Gordon Simons, Tara E. Sutton, Ronald L. Simons, Frederick X. Gibbons, Velma McBride Murry


Risky sexual behavior, particularly among adolescents, continues to be a major source of concern. In order to develop effective education and prevention programs, there is a need for research that identifies the antecedents of such behavior. This study investigated the mediators that link parenting experiences during early adolescence to subsequent risky sexual behaviors among a diverse sample of African American youth (N = 629, 55 % female). While there is ample evidence that parenting practices (e.g., supportive parenting, harsh parenting, parental management) are antecedent to risky sexual behavior, few studies have examined whether one approach to parenting is more strongly related to risky sex than others. Using a developmental approach, the current study focused on factors associated with six theories of risky sexual behavior. While past research has provided support for all of the theories, few studies have assessed the relative contribution of each while controlling for the processes proposed by the others. The current study addresses these gaps in the literature and reports results separately by gender. Longitudinal analyses using structural equation modeling revealed that the mediating mechanisms associated with social learning and attachment theories were significantly related to the risky sexual behavior of males and females. Additionally, there was support for social control and self-control theories only for females and for life history theory only for males. We did not find support for problem behavior theory, a perspective that dominates the risky sex literature, after controlling for the factors associated with the other theories. Finally, supportive parenting emerged as the parenting behavior most influential with regard to adolescents’ risky sexual behavior. These results provide insight regarding efficacious approaches to education and preventative programs designed to reduce risky sexual behaviors among adolescents.

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