Objective: To assess the co-occurrence of patterns of adolescent substance use and sexual behavior and test for potential moderating effects of gender.
Method: The 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey sample of 13,953 high school students was used in this study. Latent class analyses were conducted to examine the relation between patterns of substance use and sexual risk behavior in a nationally representative adolescent sample. The final model controlled for demographic covariates and an interaction between gender and substance-use classes.
Results: Four class solutions to each behavior provided optimal fit. Substance-use classes were nonusers (27%), alcohol experimenters (38%), occasional polysubstance users (23%), and frequent polysubstance users (13%). Sexual risk classes were abstainers (53%), monogamous (15%), low-frequency multipartner (18%), and high-frequency multipartner (14%). Substance-use class had a strong association with sexual behavior even when controlling for demographic covariates. African Americans were less likely to use substances but more likely to report sexual risk behaviors. interaction effects indicated that substance use among females was associated with increased sexual risk behavior compared with males.
Conclusions: The results of this study provide impetus for the development of preventive interventions targeting change across multiple risk behaviors, and also for targeting particular high-risk groups or patterns of behavior.