Love on Lockdown: How Social Network Characteristics Predict Separational Concurrency Among Low Income African-American Women

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One out of nine African-American men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, resulting in many African-American women losing their primary romantic partners to incarceration. Research suggests that partner incarceration may contribute to increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)/human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); however, factors associated with women’s decisions to begin new sexual partnerships following partner incarceration (i.e., separational concurrency) have not been well studied. This study examined the social context relevant to initiating separational concurrency, following incarceration of a primary male partner. Cross-sectional secondary data analysis of 6-month follow-up data from the CHAT Project, a social-network based HIV/sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention study in Baltimore, MD, USA. Participants were N = 196 African-American women, who reported ever having had a partner who was incarcerated for at least 6 months during the relationship. The majority (81.5 %) of women were unemployed with a mean age of 41.7 years. Over half of the sample (59.5 %) reported having used crack or heroin at least once in the previous 12 months; 48.5 % of the women had experienced physical abuse, with over half of the sample reporting a lifetime history of emotional abuse (54.6 %). Separational concurrency, defined as answering yes to the item, “While [your] partner was incarcerated, did you have any other sexual partners?,” was the primary outcome measure. After adjusting for age, drug use and unemployment the multiple logistic regression model found that women who reported a history of physical or emotional abuse were over two times as likely to report separational concurrency than women without an abuse history [adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 2.24; 95 % CI, 1.24, 4.05; p =.007 and AOR, 2.44; 95 % CI, 1.33, 4.46; p =.004, respectively]. Individuals who reported a higher number of drug-using sex partners (AOR, 2.49; 95 % CI, 1.4, 4.5; p =.002), sex exchange partners (AOR, 4.0; 95 % CI, 1.8 8.9; p =.001), and sexual partners who engaged in concurrency (AOR: 2.67; 95 % CI: 1.5, 4.8; p =.001) were significantly more likely to report separational concurrency. Conversely, participants who reported more female kin in their social networks (AOR,.808; 95 % CI,.67,.97; p =.025), having known network members a longer time (AOR,.997; 95 % CI,.993,.999; p =.043), and higher levels of trust for network members (AOR,.761; 95 % CI,.63,.92; p =.005) were significantly less likely to report separational concurrency. Results of this study demonstrate that social network characteristics may be crucial to understanding separational concurrency among African-American urban women who have lost a partner to incarceration. Social network and other resource-based interventions, which provide instrumental, social, and economic resources to women who have experienced the loss of a partner to incarceration, may be important tools in empowering women and helping to reduce the disproportionate burden of STIs/HIV among low income, African-American women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-471
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 5 2015


  • HIV/AIDS prevention
  • Incarceration
  • Separational concurrency
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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