Feelings About Risk and the Epidemic Diffusion of Adolescent Sexual Behavior

Feelings About Risk and the Epidemic Diffusion of Adolescent Sexual Behavior Rapid initiation of sexual risk behavior in adolescents can be explained by diffusion processes similar to those used to model epidemics. These models suggest that novel behavior can spread to all individuals exposed to the behavior. An alternative interpretation places greater emphasis on developmental changes in feelings toward risk behavior that can explain or limit the diffusion process. This research examined the initiation of sexual behavior in adolescents living in high-poverty urban environments. A cross-section of African American youth (N = 355) ages 9–17 living in public housing were interviewed using privacy-enhancing “talking computers.” Sexual risk behavior (unprotected sexual intercourse) was assessed along with perceived sexual behavior of friends and personal feelings about sexual intercourse and condom use. Age trends in both peer-group perceptions and personal feelings displayed increasing attraction toward risky sex. Diffusion processes were strongly related to sexual initiation and condom use even after controlling for changes in personal feelings. Nevertheless, feelings toward sexual risk behavior moderated the diffusion process. Adolescents with less favorable feelings toward sex were less susceptible to the diffusion of sexual initiation and those with more favorable feelings toward condoms were more likely to use them consistently. Interventions that focus on adolescents' feelings toward risk behavior can help to limit the diffusion of risk behavior in high-risk urban environments. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Prevention Science Springer Journals

Feelings About Risk and the Epidemic Diffusion of Adolescent Sexual Behavior

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Publisher
Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 by Society for Prevention Research
Subject
Medicine & Public Health; Public Health; Health Psychology; Child and School Psychology
ISSN
1389-4986
eISSN
1573-6695
D.O.I.
10.1023/A:1021734827116
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Rapid initiation of sexual risk behavior in adolescents can be explained by diffusion processes similar to those used to model epidemics. These models suggest that novel behavior can spread to all individuals exposed to the behavior. An alternative interpretation places greater emphasis on developmental changes in feelings toward risk behavior that can explain or limit the diffusion process. This research examined the initiation of sexual behavior in adolescents living in high-poverty urban environments. A cross-section of African American youth (N = 355) ages 9–17 living in public housing were interviewed using privacy-enhancing “talking computers.” Sexual risk behavior (unprotected sexual intercourse) was assessed along with perceived sexual behavior of friends and personal feelings about sexual intercourse and condom use. Age trends in both peer-group perceptions and personal feelings displayed increasing attraction toward risky sex. Diffusion processes were strongly related to sexual initiation and condom use even after controlling for changes in personal feelings. Nevertheless, feelings toward sexual risk behavior moderated the diffusion process. Adolescents with less favorable feelings toward sex were less susceptible to the diffusion of sexual initiation and those with more favorable feelings toward condoms were more likely to use them consistently. Interventions that focus on adolescents' feelings toward risk behavior can help to limit the diffusion of risk behavior in high-risk urban environments.

Journal

Prevention ScienceSpringer Journals

Published: Sep 28, 2004

References

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