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Nurs Res. 1995 Nov-Dec;44(6):340-6.

Linkages between sexual risk taking, substance use, and AIDS knowledge among pregnant adolescents and young mothers.

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UCLA School of Nursing, USA.


This survey examined the relationships of sexual risk taking to substance use and AIDS knowledge in pregnant adolescents (n = 58) and nonpregnant young mothers (n = 93). Subjects were from predominantly minority backgrounds, were single, and ranged in age from 12 to 20 years (M = 16.64). A number of high-risk behaviors were reported, including substance use during pregnancy and early parenthood, unprotected sexual relations, and multiple (lifetime) sex partners. Current pregnancy status, history of marijuana use, and ethnicity were strong predictors of having had multiple sex partners. Odds ratios suggested that Black adolescents were many times more likely than Whites to have had multiple sex partners. Pregnant adolescents were less likely than young mothers (nonpregnant) to have had multiple sex partners but more likely to have unprotected sex (i.e., without use of a condom). Conversely, young mothers were more likely to have multiple sex partners and less likely to have unprotected sex than were pregnant adolescents. Those with a history of marijuana use were more likely to have had multiple sex partners than were adolescents who had never used this drug. AIDS knowledge was not a significant predictor of high-risk sexual behavior.


To facilitate acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) prevention efforts, the relationships between sexual risk taking and both substance use and knowledge of AIDS were investigated in a sample of 58 pregnant adolescents and 93 teen mothers. The two major sexual risk-taking behaviors reported by subjects were sex without a condom (69% rate at last intercourse) and a history of multiple sex partners (average, 3.2 partners). 77% of teens had used alcohol and 60% had tried marijuana; current use rates were 41% and 23%, respectively. Significant predictors of a history of more than one sexual partner included current pregnancy, Black race, and history of marijuana use; these three variables explained 78% of cases. For unprotected intercourse, the only significant risk factor was current pregnancy (61% of cases). AIDS knowledge did not decrease the likelihood of engaging in either high-risk behavior. Compared to teen mothers, pregnant adolescents were less likely to have had multiple sex partners but more likely to have had unprotected intercourse. These findings provide support for the theory of problem-proneness behavior, which asserts that those who engage in one high-risk behavior (e.g., initiating sex at an early age) are likely to engage in other, ecologically linked behaviors (e.g., marijuana use). Interventions suggested by these results include stopping the progression of substance use (alcohol to marijuana to cocaine) among young mothers before experimentation with intravenous drugs occurs, social cognitive programs addressing hedonistic concerns about condom use, and education about the dangers of transmission of the AIDS virus to both mother and unborn child associated with unprotected sex during pregnancy.

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