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Am J Public Health. 2007 Jun;97(6):1096-101. Epub 2007 Apr 26.

Growth trajectories of sexual risk behavior in adolescence and young adulthood.

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  • 1School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



Adolescence and young adulthood (ages 18-25 years) are periods of development and change, which include experimentation with and adoption of new roles and behaviors. We investigated longitudinal trajectories of sexual risk behaviors across these time periods and how these trajectories may be different for varying demographic groups.


We developed multilevel growth models of sexual risk behavior for a predominantly African American sample (n=847) that was followed for 8 years, from adolescence to young adulthood. We investigated differences in growth parameters by race/ethnicity and gender and their interactions.


The final model included linear and quadratic terms for both adolescence and young adulthood, indicating acceleration of sexual risk behaviors during adolescence and a peak and deceleration during young adulthood. African American males exhibited the highest rate of sexual risk behavior in ninth grade, yet had the slowest rate of growth. Compared with their White peers, African American males and females exhibited less sexual risk behavior during young adulthood.


Our results suggest that youths of different races/ethnicities and genders exhibit varying sexual risk behavior trajectories.

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