CONTEXT: U.S. Hispanics are disadvantaged compared with whites in regard to sexual health, particularly early sexual initiation and contraceptive use. It is unclear whether differences in nativity and immigration are associated with risky sexual behaviors.
METHODS: Data collected between 1998 and 2000 from a community sample in South Florida were analyzed to examine sexual behaviors among 709 Hispanic individuals aged 18–23. Associations between nativity and age at immigration and sexual behaviors were assessed separately by gender using chi-square tests and analyses of covariance.
RESULTS: Smaller proportions of sexually experienced women who had immigrated to the United States before age six than of similar U.S.-born women reported having had vaginal sex (83% vs. 91%) and oral sex (71% vs. 86%) in the past year. Compared with U.S.-born women, those who had immigrated at age six or older reported lower levels of oral sex (66% vs. 86% of those with sexual experience) and drug use in conjunction with sex in the past year (mean score, 1.2 vs. 1.6 on a scale of 1–5), and a lower average lifetime number of sexual partners (2.0 vs. 3.7 in the sample overall). Immigrant men were no less likely than U.S.-born men to engage in risky sexual behavior.
CONCLUSIONS: Given the diversity of nativity and immigration histories among Hispanics in the United States, it is important that research examine both factors. An understanding of their joint association with sexual activity, plus the conditioning effects of gender, could help professionals to develop effective education and prevention programs for young people who are at risk for engaging in potentially dangerous sexual behavior.