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Narratives of development, experiences of risk: Adult women's perspectives on relationships and safer sex


Correspondence should be addressed to Nancy J. Bell, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA (e-mail:


Mid-life women are increasingly at risk for HIV/AIDS, yet relatively few studies have targeted this age group. In this study, we explored views of relationships and safer sex practices among eight well-educated, single, heterosexual adult women through in-depth interviews and supplemental questionnaires. The women viewed themselves as competent, responsible, and mature in terms of their relationship and sexual choices. However, their actual sexual practices, and reasons given for these practices, were similar to those of adolescents and of inner-city women living in high-risk environments. Findings are significant in highlighting the power and importance of relationship factors, especially trust, as these relate to safer sex practices and prevention initiatives.