A Panel Study of Subjective Expected Utility for Adolescent Sexual Behavior1


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    This research was funded by Grant No. 1 R01 HD 12806 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The authors thank John Billy, Susan Newcomer, and anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Karl E. Bauman, Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health 201H, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.


The relationship between subjective expected utility (SEU) for intercourse and sexual behavior was examined in a 3-year panel study of adolescents. Linear structural equation models were used to evaluate the causal priority of these variables for 225 junior high school students. Panel data allowed this examination, which is not possible in more common cross-sectional studies. It was found that SEU had a significant relationship to subsequent sexual behavior in each of the 1-year intervals, but intercourse was significantly related to subsequent SEU in only the first interval. This pattern was explained as a result of the process of development of utility during adolescent initial experience with sexual behaviors.