Factors Associated with Sexual Behavior among Adolescents: A Multivariate Analysis

By Harvey, S. Marie; Spigner, Clarence | Adolescence, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Factors Associated with Sexual Behavior among Adolescents: A Multivariate Analysis

Harvey, S. Marie, Spigner, Clarence, Adolescence


The United States has the highest teenage pregnancy rate of any developed nation, with nearly one million teenage pregnancies each year (Jones et al., 1985). Adolescent childbearing has become a prominent social issue because of the broad social and economic consequences. In addition, since the advent of the AIDS epidemic, concern about sexual risk-taking has gone beyond the problem of unintended pregnancy (Hein, 1993). Although the number of AIDS cases diagnosed among teenagers is currently small - one percent of the reported cases - the mean latency of 11 years from HIV infection to AIDS has kept the manifest disease hidden; most people infected as teenagers do not become ill with AIDS-defining illness until their 20s. Adolescent AIDS cases have increased 77% in the past two years (House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, 1992) and the proportion of adolescent girls who have become infected with HIV is "worringly high" (Ehrhardt, 1992). Moreover, rates of other sexually transmitted diseases are higher among sexually active teenagers than they are among adults (Cates, 1990).

The well-documented negative health, social, and economic consequences associated with adolescent fertility, have made the prevention of teenage pregnancy a public health priority. In 1987, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a report pointing out that the sexual decision-making process undergone by young women involves a sequence of choices. The first stage in the sequence of options is the decision to be sexually active and engage in sexual intercourse. Any sexual activity that brings a person in contact with semen, blood, or vaginal secretions of a person infected with HIV places that person at risk for infection (Goedert, 1987). Because early initiation of sexual intercourse lengthens the period of risk for teenage pregnancy as well as STD and HIV infection, there is a need to more clearly understand the factors associated with an adolescent's likelihood of engaging in sexual intercourse. The identification of such factors could contribute to the development of programs to prevent or modify risky sexual behaviors.

It is not surprising, therefore, that numerous studies have examined antecedents of early sexual intercourse (for a summary see Dryfoos, 1990). These studies have identified a number of categories of variables associated with sexual intercourse among adolescents including demographic, personal, interpersonal or normative influences, and problem behaviors. There is growing evidence that adolescent problem behaviors are intercorrelated (Donovan & Jessor, 1985; Mott & Haurin, 1988; Osgood, Johnston, O'Malley, & Backman, 1988). While some studies have shown that the frequency of sexual intercourse is associated with other behaviors such as delinquent acts and substance use (Biglan et al., 1990; Donovan & Jessor, 1985; Mott & Haurin, 1988), in a longitudinal study Chewning (1988) found that high-risk health practices and problem behaviors were associated with early onset of sexual intercourse.

Many of the previous studies have focused on only one or two categories of variables; fewer studies have investigated the simultaneous relationship of different categories of variables to engaging in sexual intercourse. A major limitation of this narrow focus is that the relative predictive power of different categories of variables cannot be determined. In addition, because the burden of unwanted pregnancy falls disproportionately on women, the majority of research has focused on attributes of females rather than of males. However, sexual behavior occurs in the context of dyadic interaction.

The purpose of this study was, therefore, to examine the multiple factors associated with engaging in sexual intercourse among a sample of female and male adolescents. Based on previous research findings and theoretical models, three broad categories of variables were hypothesized to be associated with sexual behavior: (1) demographic characteristics; (2) personal variables; and (3) problem and/or risk-taking behaviors.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Factors Associated with Sexual Behavior among Adolescents: A Multivariate Analysis


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?