Population Research and Policy Review 18: 89–100, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Gender differences in substance use and initiation of sexual
MICHELE STATON, CARL LEUKEFELD, TK LOGAN,
RICK ZIMMERMAN, DON LYNAM, RICH MILICH,
CATHY MARTIN, KAREN McCLANAHAN & RICHARD CLAYTON
Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
Abstract. Even though widespread efforts have focused on educating young adults about HIV
and AIDS, many individuals continue to engage in behaviors that place them at risk. These
behaviors include frequent experimentation with alcohol and other drugs prior to sex, engaging
in sexual activity with different partners, and inconsistent safe sex practices (Butcher et al.
1991). The combination of these risky behaviors causes increased concern about the spread
of HIV among those of college age. This study focused on two behaviors by examining the
relationship between substance use during adolescence and early initiation of sexual activity
in a sample of 950 subjects aged 19–21 in a mid-sized southern city. Results indicate that
early use of alcohol and marijuana relates to earlier initiation of sexual activity and sub-
sequent risky sexual behavior among young adults. Also, gender differences were observed
for frequent users of marijuana and alcohol with males engaging in riskier sexual practices.
Recommendations for interventions are made.
Keywords: Adolescents, Gender, HIV risk, Sexual activity, Substance use
The use of alcohol and drugs throughout adolescence and young adulthood
has been documented (e.g., Yamaguchi & Kandel 1984a, b; Kandel & Faust
1980; Kandel 1975). While experimentation with drugs and alcohol is con-
sidered normative by some, researchers have examined the hypothesis that
experimental substance use during adolescence may predict the continued use
of those substances into young adulthood (Kandel et al. 1986). For example,
Yamaguchi and Kandel’s (1984a, b) longitudinal study examined stages of
drug involvement from adolescence to young adulthood and followed a group
of 10th and 11th graders in 1971–72 for two consecutive data collections in
1980 (25 years old) and 1984 (28–29 years old). Kandel et al. (1992) contin-
ued the follow-up of the same subjects to 34–35 year olds and found that the
initiation of alcohol use at earlier ages consistently preceded the later use of