Relationship of alcohol use and risky sexual behavior: A review and analysis of findings

Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher, Susan G. Millstein, Jonathan M. Ellen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

198 Scopus citations


In this review article, three methodologic approaches that have been used to examine the association between adolescents' alcohol use and their involvement in risky sex are discussed: global correlation studies, situational covariation studies, and event analyses. The strengths and limitations of each of these research methods are discussed. An extensive review of the most rigorous studies, which used event analysis to examine the alcohol-risky sex link, reveals positive results for first-time sexual events but equivocal findings for other types of sexual relationships. It is argued that differences in the types of sexual relationships studied have been confounded, limiting our ability to evaluate the extent to which alcohol has a causal influence on adolescents' condom use. It is suggested that future investigations consider the nature of the sexual relationship, and go beyond studying the length or status of the relationship to explore how variation in relationship dimensions such as trust and intimacy affect adolescents' sexual behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-336
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1996


  • Adolescent relationships
  • Alcohol use
  • Condom use
  • Risky sexual behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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