Structuring the Future: Anticipated Life Events, Peer Networks, and Adolescent Sexual Behavior

Authors


  • This research was supported by R24-HD058484 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development awarded to the Institute for Population Research at The Ohio State University and the College of Arts and Sciences at the Ohio State University.

Abstract

While prior research has established associations between individual expectations of future events and risk behavior among adolescents, the potential effects of peers' future perceptions on risk-taking have been overlooked. We extend prior research by testing whether peers' anticipation of college completion is associated with adolescent sexual risk-taking. We also examine whether adolescents' perceptions of the negative consequences of pregnancy and idealized romantic relationship scripts mediate the association between peers' anticipation of college completion and sexual risk-taking. Results from multivariate regression models with data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) indicate peers' anticipation of college completion is negatively associated with a composite measure of sexual risk-taking and positively associated with the odds of abstaining from sexual intercourse and only engaging in intercourse with a romantic partner (compared to having intercourse with a non-romantic partner). In addition, perceptions of the negative consequences of pregnancy and sexualized relationship scripts appear to mediate a large portion of the association between peers' anticipation of future success and sexual risk-taking and the likelihood of abstaining (but not engaging in romantic-only intercourse). Results from our study underscore the importance of peers in shaping adolescent sexual behavior.

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