Predicting Early Sexual Activity with Behavior Problems Exhibited at School Entry and in Early Adolescence
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Youth who initiate sexual intercourse in early adolescence (age 11–14) experience multiple risks, including concurrent adjustment problems and unsafe sexual practices. The current study tested two models describing the links between childhood precursors, early adolescent risk factors, and adolescent sexual activity: a cumulative model and a meditational model. A longitudinal sample of 694 boys and girls from four geographical locations was utilized, with data collected from kindergarten through high school. Structural equation models revealed that, irrespective of gender or race, high rates of aggressive disruptive behaviors and attention problems at school entry increased risk for a constellation of problem behaviors in middle school (school maladjustment, antisocial activity, and substance use) which, in turn, promoted the early initiation of sexual activity. Implications are discussed for developmental models of early sexual activity and for prevention programming.
KeywordsRisky sexual activity Externalizing behaviors Early adolescent problems
This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) grants R18 MH48043, R18 MH50951, R18 MH50952, and R18 MH50953. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the National Institute on Drug Abuse also provided support for Fast Track through a memorandum of agreement with the NIMH. This work was also supported in part by Department of Education grant S184U30002 and NIMH grants K05MH00797 and K05MH01027. We are grateful for the close collaboration of the Durham Public Schools, the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the Bellefonte Area Schools, the Tyrone Area Schools, the Mifflin County Schools, the Highline Public Schools, and the Seattle Public Schools. We appreciate the dedication of hundreds of staff members who implemented the project, collected the evaluation data, and assisted with data management. For additional information concerning Fast Track, see http://www.fasttrackproject.org.
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