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J Interpers Violence. 2013 Jul;28(10):2068-87. doi: 10.1177/0886260512471082. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

What's age got to do with it? Partner age difference, power, intimate partner violence, and sexual risk in urban adolescents.

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School of Nursing, Buffalo, University of Buffalo, Wende Hall, Room 325, 3435 Main St. Buffalo, NY 14214, USA.


Adolescent girls with older male main partners are at greater risk for adverse sexual health outcomes than other adolescent girls. One explanation for this finding is that low relationship power occurs with partner age difference. Using a cross-sectional, descriptive design, we investigated the effect of partner age difference between an adolescent girl and her male partner on sexual risk behavior through the mediators of sexual relationship power, and physical intimate partner violence (IPV), and psychological IPV severity. We chose Blanc's framework to guide this study as it depicts the links among demographic, social, economic, relationship, family and community characteristics, and reproductive health outcomes with gender-based relationship power and violence. Urban adolescent girls (N = 155) completed an anonymous computer-assisted self-interview survey to examine partner and relationship factors' effect on consistent condom use. Our sample had an average age of 16.1 years with a mean partner age of 17.8 years. Partners were predominantly African American (75%), non-Hispanic (74%), and low-income (81%); 24% of participants reported consistent condom use in the last 3 months. Descriptive, correlation, and multiple mediation analyses were conducted. Partner age difference was negatively associated with consistent condom use (-.4292, p < .01); however, the indirect effects through three proposed mediators (relationship power, physical IPV, or psychological IPV severity) were not statistically significant. Further studies are needed to explore alternative rationale explaining the relationship between partner age differences and sexual risk factors within adolescent sexual relationships. Nonetheless, for clinicians and researchers, these findings underscore the heightened risk associated with partner age differences and impact of relationship dynamics on sexual risk behavior.


dating violence; domestic violence; sexuality; youth violence

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