Predictors of high-risk behavior in unmarried American women: Adolescent environment as risk factor

Stuart N. Seidman, William D. Mosher, Sevgi O. Aral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background: Heterosexual intercourse with two or more partners in a short time period represents a highrisk behavior for acquisition and transmission of sexually transmitted pathogens (STDs). Identification of factors that may predict high-risk sexual behavior can help to focus primary prevention strategies on women at risk for future acquisition of infection. Methods: We analyzed survey data obtained in 1988 from a nationally representative sample of 8,450 American women of reproductive age in order to identify such factors. Results: Of all sexually experienced unmarried women, 6.6% reported having had two or more sexual partners in the preceding three months. Earlier age at first sexual intercourse was associated with multiple recent partners, and with lower reports of abstinence. Birth region in the West, lack of attendance at religious services as an adolescent, and having a mother who had her first child before she was 25 years of age were factors associated with multiple recent partners. Among unmarried white women having a mother who worked full time and not living with both parents during adolescence were associated with multiple recent partners; among unmarried black women, the inverse was true (p for racial difference <.05). Multivariate analysis showed western birth region and earlier age at first sexual intercourse to be significant predictors of having multiple recent sex partners. Conclusions: Early environment and race influence later sexual behavior. These factors should be considered in targeting and planning education for STD prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-132
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1994


  • Sexual behavior STD HIV Female Adolescent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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