Adolescent Latino Sexual Behavior: More Reasoned or Reactive

A Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for Individual Predoctoral Fellows (F31)

Recipient: Felisa Gonzales

Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Grant number: 1F31 HD070765-01

Abstract:

Adolescent Latino youth are more likely than their White peers to report having ever engaged in sexual intercourse, and yet are less likely to report having used a condom or alternative form of contraception during their last sexual encounter. As a result, Latino adolescents have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and unintended pregnancy than their White counterparts. The proposed study will examine whether and how risk images, maternal-adolescent acculturation gaps, and perceptions of discrimination contribute to Latino adolescents’ willingness to engage in intercourse with or without barrier or hormonal methods of contraception.

Using an ecological approach, the dissertation will test developmental, cultural, and mediation models of Latino adolescent sexual behavior in hopes of identifying factors amenable to preventive interventions. The developmental model will explore two developmentally-distinct pathways to Latino adolescent sexual activity: a reasoned pathway (which requires the formation of intentions), and a reactive pathway (which only requires willingness to engage in risky behavior should the opportunity arise). The cultural model will assess the impact of constructs relevant to Latino adolescents on the reactive pathway, including risk images, maternal-adolescent acculturation gaps, and perceptions of discrimination. Finally, both the developmental and cultural models will be combined in a mediation model that includes individual and social determinants of sexual behavior.

Project Relevance: By identifying factors that contribute to willingness and behavior, the results of this project can be applied in the creation and implementation of culturally- and developmentally-appropriate interventions that seek to decrease the sexual risk behaviors and improve the sexual health of Latino adolescents.