Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 951–960 | Cite as

Associations Between Changing Developmental Contexts and Risky Sexual Behavior in the Two Years Following High School

  • Jennifer A. BaileyEmail author
  • Kevin P. Haggerty
  • Helene R. White
  • Richard F. Catalano
Original Paper


The present study tested associations between common developmental contexts (relationship involvement, independent living, college attendance, work) and risky sexual behavior (casual sex, inconsistent condom use, high-risk sex) across the 2 years following high school. Data were drawn from the Raising Healthy Children project, and included 801 participants aged 18–21 years. Longitudinal analyses, which controlled for early sexual debut, high school substance use, and high school grades, showed that living with a parent was protective against all three sexual risk behavior outcomes (ORs about 0.70). Being in a romantic relationship was associated with a lower probability of casual sex, but a higher probability of inconsistent condom use. Attending college was associated with a lower probability of high-risk sex (OR = 0.67). Working was not related to the sexual risk behaviors examined. Levels of sexual risk behavior showed little change across the 2 years following high school. Findings from this study suggest that developmental context may affect young adults’ engagement in risky sexual behavior. Programs aimed at promoting sexual health and reducing risk behaviors for STIs among young adults should consider targeting those in romantic relationships, those not living with parents, and those not attending college. Further, to develop effective prevention programs for these targeted youth, it is critical that we understand the mechanisms leading to risky sex in these groups.


Early adulthood Risky sex Developmental context Condom use 



This project was supported by Grant #R01DA08093-16 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Washington, DC. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency. The authors gratefully acknowledge the staff, families, and students of the participating project schools for their support and cooperation in the Raising Healthy Children project.


  1. Abma, J. C., Martinez, G. M., Mosher, W. D., & Dawson, B. S. (2004). Teenagers in the United States: Sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, 2002. Washington, DC: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  2. Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55, 469–480.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnett, J. J. (2005). The developmental context of substance use in emerging adulthood. Journal of Drug Issues, 35, 235–254.Google Scholar
  4. Bachman, J. G., Safron, D. J., Sy, S. R., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2003). Wishing to work: New perspectives on how adolescents’ part-time work intensity is linked to educational disengagement, substance use, and other problem behaviours. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27, 301–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bachman, J. G., Wasdsworth, K. N., O’Malley, P. M., Johnston, L. D., & Schulenberg, J. E. (1997). Smoking, drinking, and drug use in young adulthood: The impacts of new freedoms and new responsibilities. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  6. Bailey, J. A., Fleming, C. B., Henson, J. N., Catalano, R. F., & Haggerty, K. P. (2008). Sexual risk behavior 6 months post-high school: Associations with college attendance, living with a parent, and prior risk behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42, 573–579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauman, L. J., & Berman, R. (2005). Adolescent relationships and condom use: Trust, love and commitment. AIDS and Behavior, 9, 211–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bearinger, L. H., & Resnick, M. D. (2003). Dual method use in adolescents: A review and framework for research on use of STD and pregnancy protection. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32, 340–349.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Breslin, F. C., & Adlaf, E. M. (2005). Part-time work and adolescent heavy episodic drinking: The influence of family and community context. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 66, 784–794.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Catalano, R. F., & Hawkins, J. D. (1996). The social development model: A theory of antisocial behavior. In J. D. Hawkins (Ed.), Delinquency and crime: Current theories (pp. 149–197). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Catalano, R. F., Mazza, J. J., Harachi, T. W., Abbott, R. D., Haggerty, K. P., & Fleming, C. B. (2003). Raising healthy children through enhancing social development in elementary school: Results after 1.5 years. Journal of School Psychology, 41, 143–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003a). Sexually transmitted disease surveillance, 2002. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003b, May 5, 2004). YRBSS: Youth online comprehensive results. Retrieved August 9, 2004, from
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Google Scholar
  15. Congdon, R., Raudenbush, S., & Bryk, A. (2005–2009). HLM (Version 6.06). Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  16. Cooper, M. L. (2002). Alcohol use and risky sexual behavior among college students and youth: Evaluating the evidence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Suppl 14, 101–117.Google Scholar
  17. Cooper, M. L., Shapiro, C. M., & Powers, A. M. (1998). Motivations for sex and risky sexual behavior among adolescents young adults: A functional perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1528–1558.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Corbin, W. R., & Fromme, K. (2002). Alcohol use and serial monogamy as risks for sexually transmitted diseases in young adults. Health Psychology, 21, 229–236.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dalton, A. L., & Galambos, N. L. (2009). Affect and sexual behavior in the transition to university. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 675–687.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dariotis, J. K., Sonenstein, F. L., Gates, G. J., Capps, R., Astone, N. M., Pleck, J. H., et al. (2008). Changes in sexual risk behavior as young men transition to adulthood. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 40, 218–225.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dunne, E. F., Unger, E. R., Sternberg, M., McQuillan, G., Swan, D. C., Patel, S. S., & Markowitz, L. E. (2007). Prevalence of HPV infection among females in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 297, 813–819.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Graham, J. W., & Hofer, S. M. (2000). Multiple imputation in multivariate research. In T. D. Little, K. U. Schnabel, & J. Baumert (Eds.), Modeling longitudinal and multi-group data: Practical issues, applied approaches, and specific examples (pp. 201–218, 269–281). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Graham, J. W., Hofer, S. M., Donaldson, S. I., MacKinnon, D. P., & Schafer, J. L. (1997). Analysis with missing data in prevention research. In K. J. Bryant, M. T. Windle, & S. G. West (Eds.), The science of prevention: Methodological advances from alcohol and substance abuse research (pp. 325–366). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haggerty, K. P., Catalano, R. F., Harachi, T. W., & Abbott, R. D. (1998). Description de l’implementation d’un programme de prévention des problèmes de comportement à l’adolescence [Preventing adolescent problem behaviors: A comprehensive intervention description]. Criminologie, 31, 25–47.Google Scholar
  25. Hawkins, J. D., & Weis, J. G. (1985). The social development model: An integrated approach to delinquency prevention. Journal of Primary Prevention, 6, 73–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. King, K. M., Meehan, B. T., Trim, R. S., & Chassin, L. (2006). Marker or mediator? The effects of adolescent substance use on young adult educational attainment. Addiction, 101, 1730–1740.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Longmore, M. A., Manning, W. D., & Giordano, P. C. (2001). Preadolescent parenting strategies and teens’ dating and sexual initiation: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Marriage & Family, 63, 322–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Masten, A. S., Roisman, G. I., Long, J. D., Burt, K. B., Obradovic, J., Riley, J. R., et al. (2005). Developmental cascades: Linking academic achievement and externalizing and internalizing symptoms over 20 years. Developmental Psychology, 41, 733–746.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. McMorris, B. J., Petrie, R. S., Catalano, R. F., Fleming, C. B., Haggerty, K. P., & Abbott, R. D. (2009). Use of Web and in-person survey modes to gather data from young adults on sex and drug use: An evaluation of cost, time, and survey error based on a randomized mixed-mode design. Evaluation Review, 33, 138–158.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miller, B. C., Benson, B., & Galbraith, K. A. (2001). Family relationships and adolescent pregnancy risk: A research synthesis. Developmental Review, 21, 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Padilla-Walker, L. M., Nelson, L. J., Madsen, S. D., & Barry, C. M. (2008). The role of perceived parental knowledge on emerging adults’ risk behaviors. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 37, 847–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, Y. F., & Congdon, R. T. (2004). HLM 6: Hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling. Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  34. Rubin, D. B. (1987). Multiple imputation for nonresponse in surveys. New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Santelli, J. S., Lowry, R., Brener, N. D., & Robin, L. (2000). The association of sexual behaviors with socioeconomic status, family structure, and race/ethnicity among U.S. adolescents. American Journal of Public Health, 90, 1582–1588.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schafer, J. L. (1997). Analysis of incomplete multivariate data. London: Chapman and Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schafer, J. L., & Olsen, M. K. (1998). Multiple imputation for multivariate missing-data problems: A data analyst’s perspective. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 33, 545–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schulenberg, J. E., Maggs, J. L., & O’Malley, P. M. (2003). How and why the understanding of developmental continuity and discontinuity is important. In J. T. Mortimer & M. J. Shanahan (Eds.), Handbook of the life course (pp. 413–436). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Siegel, D. M., Klein, D. I., & Roghmann, K. J. (1999). Sexual behavior, contraception, and risk among college students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 25, 336–343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Valois, R. F., Dunham, A., Jackson, K. L., & Waller, J. (1999). Association between employment and substance abuse behaviors among public high school adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 25, 256–263.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wetherill, R. R., Neal, D. J., & Fromme, K. (2010). Parents, peers, and sexual values influence sexual behavior during the transition to college. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 682–694.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. White, H. R., & Jackson, K. (2004/2005). Social and psychological influences on emerging adult drinking behavior. Alcohol Research & Health, 28, 182–190.Google Scholar
  43. White, H. R., Labouvie, E. W., & Papadaratsakis, V. (2005). Changes in substance use during the transition to adulthood: A comparison of college students and their non-college age peers. Journal of Drug Issues, 35, 281–306.Google Scholar
  44. White, H. R., McMorris, B. J., Catalano, R. F., Fleming, C. B., Haggerty, K. P., & Abbott, R. D. (2006). Increases in alcohol and marijuana use during the transition out of high school into emerging adulthood: The effects of leaving home, going to college, and high school protective factors. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67, 810–822.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Wood, M. D., Read, J. P., Mitchell, R. E., & Brand, N. H. (2004). Do parents still matter? Parent and peer influences on alcohol involvement among recent high school graduates. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 18, 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer A. Bailey
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kevin P. Haggerty
    • 1
  • Helene R. White
    • 2
  • Richard F. Catalano
    • 1
  1. 1.Social Development Research GroupUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Center for Alcohol StudiesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations