Sexual risk behavior among youth: modeling the influence of prosocial activities and socioeconomic factors

J Health Soc Behav. 1998 Sep;39(3):237-53.

Abstract

Sexual activity among high-school-aged youths has steadily increased since the 1970s, emerging as a significant public health concern. Yet, patterns of youth sexual risk behavior are shaped by social class, race, and gender. Based on sociological theories of financial deprivation and collective socialization, we develop and test a model of the relationships among neighborhood poverty; family structure and social class position; parental involvement; prosocial activities; race; and gender as they predict youth sexual risk behavior. We employ structural equation modeling to test this model on a cross-sectional sample of 370 sexually active high-school students from a midwestern city; 57 percent (n = 209) are males and 86 percent are African American. We find that family structure indirectly predicts sexual risk behavior through neighborhood poverty, parental involvement, and prosocial activities. In addition, family class position indirectly predicts sexual risk behavior through neighborhood poverty and prosocial activities. We address implications for theory and health promotion.

PIP: Sexual activity among high school-aged youths has increased steadily since the 1970s, with more than half of high school students in 1990 being sexually active, and only about half of those individuals reporting that they or their sex partners used condoms during their most recent sexual intercourse. Patterns of youth sexual risk behavior and their consequences are, however, partly defined by social class, race, and gender. Based upon sociological theories of financial deprivation and collective socialization, the authors develop and test a model of the relationships among neighborhood poverty; family structure and social class position; parental involvement; prosocial activities; race; and gender as they predict youth sexual risk behavior. Structural equation modeling is used to test the model upon a cross-sectional sample of 209 male and 161 female sexually active high school students from Michigan. The students are 86% Black and of mean age 14.63 years. Family structure was found to indirectly predict sexual risk behavior through neighborhood poverty, parental involvement, and prosocial activities, while family class position indirectly predicts sexual risk behavior through neighborhood poverty and prosocial activities. Implications for theory and health promotion are considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • African Americans
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Class