Early sexual risk among black and minority ethnicity teenagers: a mixed methods study

J Adolesc Health. 2011 May;48(5):499-506. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.08.010. Epub 2010 Dec 24.


Purpose: To determine how ethnic background influences early sexual activity among young adults.

Methods: Quantitative data were collected during the Research with East London Adolescents Community Health Survey study, a population-based survey of young adults belonging to white and black and minority ethnic groups and residing in east London in 2001 (n = 2,689) and 2003 (n = 2,675). Qualitative data were obtained from 146 young adults between January and September 2003.

Results: Black Caribbean, black African, white other, and mixed ethnicity young men were most likely to report high-risk sexual behaviors, that is, sexual debut at the age of ≤13 years, having unprotected sex, and having multiple sexual partners. There were marked variations within groups commonly collapsed as "black" or as "Muslim." Black Caribbean and black African young adults reported high rates of protective behaviors in addition to risk behaviors. Qualitative data confirmed variations in sexual behavior within ethnic groups. Longitudinally, risk of engaging in two or more high-risk sexual behaviors was predicted by low family support (OR: 2.8, 95% CI: 1.6-4.9), regular smoking (OR: 4.5, 95% CI: 1.7-12.0), and usage of illicit drugs (OR: 2.9, 95% CI: 1.5-5.8), with lower risk predicted by low peer support (OR: .3, 95% CI: .2-.6).

Conclusions: Young adults belonging to black and minority ethnic groups reported a wide variation in sexual risk behaviors. High levels of high-risk behaviors were reported in ethnic groups known to have high rates of sexually transmitted infections. Effective sexual health interventions should be started early and they must focus on sexual debut and partner choices as well as messages regarding safe sex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • London
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Unsafe Sex / ethnology*
  • Unsafe Sex / statistics & numerical data