Associations between changing developmental contexts and risky sexual behavior in the two years following high school

Arch Sex Behav. 2011 Oct;40(5):951-60. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9633-0. Epub 2010 Jun 23.


The present study tested associations between common developmental contexts (relationship involvement, independent living, college attendance, work) and risky sexual behavior (casual sex, inconsistent condom use, high-risk sex) across the 2 years following high school. Data were drawn from the Raising Healthy Children project, and included 801 participants aged 18-21 years. Longitudinal analyses, which controlled for early sexual debut, high school substance use, and high school grades, showed that living with a parent was protective against all three sexual risk behavior outcomes (ORs about 0.70). Being in a romantic relationship was associated with a lower probability of casual sex, but a higher probability of inconsistent condom use. Attending college was associated with a lower probability of high-risk sex (OR = 0.67). Working was not related to the sexual risk behaviors examined. Levels of sexual risk behavior showed little change across the 2 years following high school. Findings from this study suggest that developmental context may affect young adults' engagement in risky sexual behavior. Programs aimed at promoting sexual health and reducing risk behaviors for STIs among young adults should consider targeting those in romantic relationships, those not living with parents, and those not attending college. Further, to develop effective prevention programs for these targeted youth, it is critical that we understand the mechanisms leading to risky sex in these groups.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Comorbidity
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Unsafe Sex / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult