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Community Effects on Youth Sexual Activity

NCJ Number
Journal of Marriage and Family Volume: 63 Dated: May 2001 Pages: 540-554
Date Published
May 2001
16 pages

This longitudinal study reexamined the impact of neighborhood characteristics on adolescent and young adult sexual activity, with particular attention toward exploring the possible mechanisms linking neighborhood conditions to the initiation and frequency of adolescent and young adult premarital sexual activity.


Using the longitudinal National Survey of Children (NSC) and data from the 1980 U.S. census, this study examined the impact of community socioeconomic status on four dimensions of adolescent and young adult premarital sexual activity: (1) the timing of first intercourse, (2) the frequency of intercourse, (3) the number of different sex partners, and (4) the likelihood of engaging in unprotected intercourse. Findings from the study indicate substantial evidence that the socioeconomic status of communities plays an important role in shaping sexual behavior among adolescents and young adults. The frequency in which youth engage in sexual intercourse, the number of partners they have sex with, and the likelihood of engaging in unprotected intercourse all increase with the level of socioeconomic disadvantage of their communities of recent or current residence. The study also found relatively little support for any of the most commonly cited explanations for neighborhood effects on adolescent sexual activity. Only the attitudes and behaviors of peers account for even a small portion of the observed impact of community disadvantage on youth sexual behavior. The data used for this study were collected more than a decade ago; the use of more recent data to examine the impact of community characteristics on youth sexual activity would contribute substantially to the understanding of these issues. References

Date Published: May 1, 2001