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Prev Sci. 2007 Mar;8(1):1-10.

Perceived physical maturity, age of romantic partner, and adolescent risk behavior.

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Department of Maternal & Child Health, CB 7445, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7445, USA.


Early pubertal timing and advanced physical maturity for age confer elevated risk for problem behaviors for both boys and girls. However, examinations of possible biological and social mediators have been limited. Using more than 4,000 adolescents under age 15 who participated in Waves I and II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), we examined the relationship between perceived physical maturity and membership in risk behavior clusters, and tested whether having a romantic partner mediates the maturity/risk behavior relationship. Results of multinomial regression models indicated that for both boys and girls, advanced physical maturity was associated with membership in higher risk clusters, and that having a romantic partner plays an important mediating role in this association. For females, the additional impact of having an older partner, versus any partner at all, was substantial and particularly important for the highest risk clusters. The role of partner age could not be tested for males. Because romantic partners elevate risk for young adolescent males and females, there is a need to identify and understand facets and developmental functions of adolescent romantic relationships that play a role in substance use and sexual decisions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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