|Institution:||University of Washington|
|Keywords:||adolescent health; positive youth development; sexual health; Social work|
|Full text PDF:||http://hdl.handle.net/1773/27583|
While risky sexual behavior can lead to negative consequences such as sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy, sexual behavior also is a healthy part of human development. By understanding the social and cognitive processes that influence sexual behavior choices during adolescence and young adulthood, we will be better able to promote positive sexual health and reduce risky sexual behavior and its negative consequences, included sexually transmitted infection and unintended pregnancy. This dissertation examined three sets of questions related to sexual behavior during adolescence and young adulthood. The first study used structural equation modeling and found that the data supported many of the prosocial developmental paths described by the social development model, for example a positive family and school environment predicted prosocial norms and healthy beliefs, which in turn predicted a later age of sexual initiation. The second study used latent class analysis to identify five classes of sexual behavior from ages 19 to 23. The study showed that while young adult men and women exhibit similar patterns of sexual behavior, there were important differences in the levels of individual sexual risk behaviors within the behavior patterns and in the proportion of males and females estimated to be in the Higher Risky Sex class. This study also showed that risk and protective socialization processes during adolescence impact sexual behavior during young adulthood. The third study used the 5 identified latent classes of sexual behavior, and found that these classes differentially predict health and social outcomes at age 24. These studies have several implications, including providing support for enhancing prosocial environments at the family, school, and peer levels, providing insight into specific health messaging for young adults to improve their sexual health, and the importance of contextualizing sexual behavior as one component of overall health that is linked to other areas of a person's health.