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Risk and Protective Factors Associated With Adolescent Sexual Activity

NCJ Number
Adolescent & Family Health Volume: 2 Issue: 3 Dated: 2001 Pages: 99-107
Christina Olenik Lynch Ph.D.
Date Published
9 pages
This study used Richard Jessor's Problem Behavior Theory (1977) and Urie Bronfrenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory to test a model of risk and protective factors associated with adolescent sexual activity.
Bronfrenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory proposes that social scientific inquiry investigate the relationship between the individual and his/her environment. He argues that it is the interaction between a variety of systems (individual, family, institutional, and cultural) which helps to explain behavioral phenomena. Jessor's Problem Behavior Theory makes clearer the impact of these systems on adolescent behavior. This theory posits that "socially deviant" behaviors covary with each other to form a single "risk behavior syndrome." The research question addressed in the current study was, "what conditions exist for adolescents to experience a higher likelihood of being involved in negative health outcomes, and do certain other protective characteristics moderate those risk conditions, allowing adolescents to avoid or diminish the results of negative health behaviors." The study tested one theoretical model on two national samples of seventh-eighth grade adolescents (n=1,372) and ninth-twelfth grade adolescents (n=2,515). Data were collected during the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Results for both samples support the theory that a set of complex multi-level factors influence sexual activity. Findings show that a higher level of family interaction/bonding, as well as higher family economic status and neighborhood perception are protective factors against early sexual activity. Self-esteem was a protective factor for the younger adolescent group; and academic achievement was a protective factor for the ninth-twelfth grade sample. Only substance use was a risk factor for both samples. 4 tables, 2 figures, and 19 references


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