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J Pediatr Psychol. 2002 Sep;27(6):519-30.

Predictors of risky sexual behavior in African American adolescent girls: implications for prevention interventions.

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Emory University School of Medicine, Pediatric Infectious Disease Program, Atlanta, Georgia 30308, USA.



To describe empirically the risky sexual behavior of an at-risk sample of adolescent girls, to assess psychosocial correlates of risky behavior, and to examine the utility of applying a risk and protective model to predicting teens' risky sexual behavior.


Participants included 158 African American girls, ages 12 to 19, who were receiving medical care in an adolescent primary care clinic. Teens completed measures of depression, conduct problems, substance use, peer norms, social support, HIV knowledge, sexual self-efficacy, and sexual behavior.


Teens in this sample reported high rates of risky sexual behaviors, including early sexual debuts and frequent unprotected sexual encounters with multiple partners. African American girls who reported high rates of substance use and who reported that their peers engaged in risky behaviors also reported engaging in high rates of risky sexual behaviors. Little support was obtained for protective factors (HIV knowledge, social support, sexual self-efficacy) moderating the relations between risk factors and adolescents' risky sexual behavior in this sample.


Teens presenting in primary care settings in urban environments seem to be at high risk for HIV, STDs, and substance abuse, and risk reduction strategies should be introduced during the preteen years. An interdisciplinary model of care in primary care settings serving adolescents is clearly indicated, and prevention-oriented interventions aimed at reducing risky behaviors and preventing the development of more significant health, mental health, or substance abuse disorders are needed.

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