Assessing Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors of Young Women: A Joint Model with Nonlinear Time Effects, Time Varying Covariates, and Dropouts

J Am Stat Assoc. 2008 Dec 1;103(484):1496-1507. doi: 10.1198/016214508000000850.


Understanding human sexual behaviors is essential for the effective prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Analysis of longitudinally measured sexual behavioral data, however, is often complicated by zero-inflation of event counts, nonlinear time trend, time-varying covariates, and informative dropouts. Ignoring these complicating factors could undermine the validity of the study findings. In this paper, we put forth a unified joint modeling structure that accommodates these features of the data. Specifically, we propose a pair of simultaneous models for the zero-inflated event counts: Each of these models contains an auto-regressive structure for the accommodation of the effect of recent event history, and a nonparametric component for the modeling of nonlinear time effect. Informative dropout and time varying covariates are modeled explicitly in the process. Model fitting and parameter estimation are carried out in a Bayesian paradigm by the use of a Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) method. Analytical results showed that adolescent sexual behaviors tended to evolve nonlinearly over time and they were strongly influenced by the day-to-day variations in mood and sexual interests. These findings suggest that adolescent sex is to a large extent driven by intrinsic factors rather than being compelled by circumstances, thus highlighting the need of education on self protective measures against infection risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural