Objective: To develop a multidimensional classification of sexual partnerships.
Methods: Eighty-two female subjects (ages 15-20 years; 77% African American) used coital logs to record dates of 1265 coital events, partner initials, and condom use. Logs were collected at 1-, 3-, 9-, 15-, and 21-month return visits. Three adolescent health professionals independently classified partnership patterns of each subject; classification schemes were revised until complete consensus for each subject was obtained.
Results: Complete agreement in partnership classification was reached after 3 rounds. The consensus partnership classification had three dimensions: number (1, > or = 2 partners), pattern (1 partner, serially exclusive, concurrent), and duration (any partnership < or = 21 days, all partnerships >21 days). A total of 34 of 82 (34%) of subjects had > or = 2 partners; 11 of 34 (32%) had concurrent partnerships. Twenty of 82 (24%) had only partnerships lasting >21 days. Condom use was less common for subjects in only longer-term (>21 days) partnerships, but did not significantly vary by number or pattern.
Conclusion: Multiple dimensions of adolescent sexual partnerships may be identified. Detailed research and clinical assessments along these dimensions may improve understanding of protective behaviors such as condom use.