Cultural variables have been associated with sexual risk behaviors among Latino youth, but findings across studies are inconsistent.


A longitudinal study of acculturation patterns followed Latino youth in Southern California from 2005 to 2012. Data from 995 participants were used in logistic and ordered regression analyses to test whether cultural variables measured in high school were associated with sexual risk behaviors in emerging adulthood, and whether gender moderated these associations.


The cultural value of respect for parents was negatively associated with participants’ odds of reporting an earlier age at sexual debut (odds ratio, 0.8) and condom nonuse at most recent sexual intercourse (0.8). A measure of acculturation reflecting U.S. cultural practices was positively associated with the likelihood of being sexually experienced (1.2), having concurrent sexual partners (1.5) and, among males only, having a greater number of sexual partners (1.3). Second- and later-generation immigrant youth had lower odds of not using a condom at most recent sexual intercourse than first-generation youth (0.6 and 0.5, respectively). Strength of endorsement of Latino cultural practices was negatively associated with females’ lifetime number of partners (0.8), but positively associated with males’ (1.4).


The cultural measures associated with Latino youths’ sexual behaviors differed across outcomes and by gender. Further understanding of these associations and their underlying mechanisms may help inform the development of culturally sensitive sexual health interventions.