High risk alcohol use and sexual behaviors peak in young adulthood and often occur in the same individuals. Alcohol use has been found to impair decision-making and contribute to high risk sexual activity. However, the association between alcohol use and risky sexual behavior may also reflect enduring individual differences in risk taking, sociability, self-control, and related variables. Both behaviors can serve similar functions related to recreation, interpersonal connection, and the pursuit of excitement or pleasure. The present study examined the extent to which high risk drinking and sexual behavior clustered together in a sample of urban minority young adult women, a demographic group at elevated risk for negative outcomes related to sexual health. We tested whether psychosocial functioning measured at the beginning of high school predicted classes of risk behaviors when girls were tracked longitudinally into young adulthood. Latent class analysis indicated three distinct profiles based on high risk drinking and sexual behavior (i.e., multiple sex partners) in young adulthood. The largest class (73% of the sample) reported low levels of risky drinking and sexual behavior. The next largest class (19%) reported high risk drinking and low risk sexual behavior, and the smallest class (8%) reported high levels of both behaviors. Compared to women from other racial/ethnic groups, black women were more likely to be categorized in the high risk drinking/low risk sex class. Multinomial logistic regression indicated that self-control in adolescence had a broad and enduring protective effect on risk behaviors eight years later and was associated with a greater probability of being in the low risk drinking/low risk sex class. Findings are discussed in terms of understanding the phenotypic expressions of risk behavior as they relate to early psychosocial development and the long-term protective function of self-control in reducing high risk drinking and sexual behaviors.
Keywords: alcohol; latent class analysis; minority; self-control; sexual behavior; young adulthood.