Prevention Science

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 314–322 | Cite as

Selling and Buying Sex: A Longitudinal Study of Risk and Protective Factors in Adolescence

  • Christine E. KaestleEmail author


Engaging in trading sex is associated with many co-occurring problems, including elevated risk for sexually transmitted infections. Various dimensions of social support from parents, schools, and mentors may be protective against sex trading and may ameliorate the impact of risk factors. This study analyzes data from respondents to Waves I and III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) who had not participated in sex trading for money or drugs in Wave I so that risk and protective factors for first initiations of selling or buying sex could be examined longitudinally. About 2% of the study sample began selling sex and about 2% began buying sex between Wave I and Wave III. The respondent’s sex, race/ethnicity, history of sexual abuse, shoplifting, marijuana use, and experiences of homelessness or running away were significant predictors of trading sex (p < 0.05). Being happy at school was associated with lower selling of sex, and feeling part of school was associated with lower buying of sex even after controlling for demographics and risk factors (p < 0.05). Results indicate a need for early intervention for youth who experience sexual abuse or running away. Elements of school connectedness have a protective effect on selling and buying sex. Promoting school connectedness may advance public health goals.


Adolescents Sex exchange Sex trading Prostitution 



Sincere thanks go to Annabelle Goodwin for her assistance in gathering and sorting through literature review material. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.


  1. Bahr, S. J., Hoffmann, J. P., & Yang, X. (2005). Parental and peer influences on the risk of adolescent drug use. Journal of Primary Prevention, 16, 529–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beam, M. R., Chen, C., & Greenberger, E. (2002). The nature of adolescents’ relationships with their “very important” nonparental adults. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 305–325.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beech, B. M., Myers, L., & Beech, D. J. (2002). Hepatitis B and C infections among homeless adolescents. Family & Community Health, 25, 28–36.Google Scholar
  4. Bonny, A. E., Britto, M. T., Klostermann, B. K., Hornung, R. W., & Slap, G. B. (2000). School disconnectedness: Identifying adolescents at risk. Pediatrics, 106, 1017–1021.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourque, L., & Clark, V. (1992). Processing data: The survey example. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Brener, N. D., Billy, J. O., & Grady, W. R. (2003). Assessment of factors affecting the validity of self-reported health-risk behavior among adolescents: Evidence from the scientific literature. Journal of Adolescent Health, 33, 436–457.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Browning, C. (2002). Trauma or transition: A life-course perspective on the link between childhood sexual experiences and men’s adult well-being. Social Science Research, 31, 473–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Browning, C., & Laumann, E. (1997). Sexual contact between children and adults: A life course perspective. American Sociological Review, 62, 540–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chantala, K., & Tabor, J. (1999). National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: Strategies to perform a design-based analysis using the Add Health data. Chapel Hill: Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina.Google Scholar
  10. Chantala, K., Kalsbeek, W., & Andraca, E. (2004). Non-response in wave III of the Add Health study. Chapel Hill: Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  11. Clatts, M. C., Goldsamt, L., Yi, H., & Gwads, M. V. (2005). Homelessness and drug abuse among young men who have sex with men in New York City: A preliminary epidemiological trajectory. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 201–214.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crockett, L., Raffaelli, M., & Moilanen, K. (2003). Adolescent sexuality: Behavior and meaning. In G. Adams & M. Berzonsky (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of adolescence (pp. 371–392). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  13. Crosby, R., Leichliter, J. S., & Brackbill, R. (2000). Longitudinal prediction of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents: Results from a national survey. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 18, 312–317.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. DeLongis, A., Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1988). The impact of daily stress on health and mood: Psychological and social resources as mediators. Journal of Perspectives on Social Psychology, 54, 486–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Edwards, J. M., Iritani, B. J., & Hallfors, D. D. (2006). Prevalence and correlates of exchanging sex for drugs or money among adolescents in the United States. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 82, 354–358.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elder, G. (1985). Perspectives on the life course. In G. Elder (Ed.), Life course dynamics trajectories and transitions (pp. 23–50). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J., & Lynskey, M. T. (1997). Childhood sexual abuse, adolescent sexual behaviors and sexual revictimization. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21, 789–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Finkelhor, D. (1994). Current information about the scope and nature of child sexual abuse. The Future of Children, 4, 31–53.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2004). Coping: Pitfalls and promise. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 745–774.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fricker, A. E., Smith, D. W., Davis, J. L., & Hanson, R. F. (2003). Effects of context and question type on endorsement of childhood sexual abuse. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16, 265–268.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gidycz, C. A., Hanson, K., & Layman, M. J. (1995). A prospective analysis of the relationships among sexual assault experiences. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 5–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goldman, J., & Padayachi, U. (2000). Some methodological problems in estimating incidence and prevalence in child sexual abuse research. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 305–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Graham, C. A., Catania, J. A., Brand, R., Duong, T., & Canchola, J. A. (2003). Recalling sexual behavior: A methodological analysis of memory recall bias via interview using the diary as the gold standard. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 325–332.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Greene, J. M., Ennett, S. T., & Ringwalt, C. L. (1999). Prevalence and correlates of survival sex among runaway and homeless youth. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 1406–1409.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guo, J., Chung, I. J., Hill, K. G., Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Abbott, R. D. (2002). Developmental relationships between adolescent substance use and risky sexual behavior in young adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 354–362.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Halcon, L. L., & Lifson, A. R. (2004). Prevalence and predictors of sexual risks among homeless youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33, 71–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Halpern, C. T., Hallfors, D., Bauer, D. J., Iritani, B., Waller, M. W., & Cho, H. (2004). Implications of racial and gender differences in patterns of adolescent risk behavior for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 36, 239–247.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Halpern, C. T., Kaestle, C. E., & Hallfors, D. D. (2007). Perceived physical maturity, age of romantic partner, and adolescent risk behavior. Prevention Science, 8, 1–10.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heiman, J., & Heard-Davison, A. (2004). Child sexual abuse and adult sexual relationships: Review and perpective. In L. Koenig, L. Doll, A. O’Learly, & W. Pequegnat (Eds.), From child sexual abuse to adult sexual risk: Trauma, revictimization and intervention (pp. 13–47). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hendershot, C. S., Magnan, R. E., & Bryan, A. D. (2010). Associations of marijuana use and sex-related marijuana expectancies with HIV/STD risk behavior in high-risk adolescents. Psychology of Addictive Behavior, 24, 404–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Henry, K. L., Swaim, R. C., & Slater, M. D. (2005). Intraindividual variability of school bonding and adolescents’ beliefs about the effect of substance use on future aspirations. Prevention Science, 6, 101–112.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Igra, V., & Irwin, C. (1996). Theories of adolescent risk-taking behavior. In R. DiClemente, W. Hanse, & L. Ponton (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent health risk behavior (pp. 35–51). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  33. Jacobson, K. C., & Rowe, D. C. (1999). Genetic and environmental influences on the relationships between family connectedness, school connectedness, and adolescent depressed mood: Sex differences. Developmental Psychology, 35, 926–939.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jessor, R., Turbin, M. S., & Costa, F. M. (1998). Protective factors in adolescent health behavior. Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, 75, 788–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Johnson, R., Rew, L., & Sternglanz, R. (2006). The relationship between childhood sexual abuse and sexual health practices of homeless adolescents. Adolescence, 41, 221–234.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Kann, L., Brener, N. D., Warren, C. W., Collins, J. L., & Giovino, G. A. (2002). An assessment of the effect of data collection setting on the prevalence of health risk behaviors among adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 327–335.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kidd, S. A., & Kral, M. J. (2002). Suicide and prostitution among street youth: A qualitative analysis. Adolescence, 37, 411–430.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  39. Maddox, S. J., & Prinz, R. J. (2003). School bonding in children and adolescents: Conceptualization, assessment, and associated variables. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 6, 31–49.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McNeely, C., Shew, M. L., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R., Miller, B. C., & Blum, R. W. (2002). Mothers’ influence on the timing of first sex among 14- and 15-year-olds. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 256–265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Merriam, S. (1999). Time as the integrative factor. In M. C. Clark & R. S. Caffarella (Eds.), An update on adult development theory: New ways of thinking about the life course (pp. 67–76). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  42. Moffitt, T. E. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychology Review, 100, 674–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nadon, S. M., Koverola, C., & Schludermann, E. H. (1998). Antecedents to prostitution: Childhood victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 206, 206–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Patrician, P. A. (2002). Multiple imputation for missing data. Research in Nursing & Health, 25, 76–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rice, M., Kang, D. H., Weaver, M., & Howell, C. C. (2008). Relationship of anger, stress, and coping with school connectedness in fourth-grade children. Journal of School Health, 78, 149–156.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Riesch, S. K., Jacobson, G., Sawdey, L., Anderson, J., & Henriques, J. (2008). Suicide ideation among later elementary school-aged youth. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 15, 263–277.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rushton, J. L., Forcier, M., & Schectman, R. M. (2002). Epidemiology of depressive symptoms in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 41, 199–205.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Saewyc, E. M., & Tonkin, R. (2008). Surveying adolescents: Focusing on positive development. Paediatrics and Child Health, 13, 43–47.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Schisssel, B., & Fedec, C. (1999). The selling of innocence: The gestalt of danger in the lives of youth prostitutes. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 41, 33–56.Google Scholar
  50. Schloredt, K., & Heiman, J. (2003). Perceptions of sexuality as related to sexual functioning and sexual risk in women with different types of childhood abuse histories. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16, 275–284.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shochet, I. M., Homel, R., Cockshaw, W. D., & Montgomery, D. T. (2008). How do school connectedness and attachment to parents interrelate in predicting adolescent depressive symptoms? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 37, 676–681.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. STATACorp (2005). Stata Statistical Software: Release 9.2. College Station, TX: Stata.Google Scholar
  53. Tevendale, H. D., Lightfoot, M., & Slocum, S. L. (2009). Individual and environmental protective factors for risky sexual behavior among homeless youth: An exploration of gender differences. AIDS and Behavior, 13, 154–164.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Turner, C. F., Ku, L., Rogers, S. M., Lindberg, L. D., Pleck, J. H., & Sonenstein, F. L. (1998). Adolescent sexual behavior, drug use, and violence: Increased reporting with computer survey technology. Science, 280, 867–873.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tyler, K. A., & Johnson, K. A. (2006). Trading sex: Voluntary or coerced? The experiences of homeless youth. Journal of Sex Research, 49, 208–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Van Leeuwen, J. M., Hopfer, C., Hooks, S., White, R., Petersen, J., & Pirkopf, J. (2004). A snapshot of substance abuse among homeless and runaway youth in Denver, Colorado. Journal of Community Health, 29, 217–229.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Van Voorhees, B. W., Paunesku, D., Kuwabara, S. A., Basu, A., Gollan, J., Hankin, B. L., Melkonian, S., & Reinecke, M. (2008). Protective and vulnerability factors predicting new-onset depressive episode in a representative of U.S. adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42, 605–616.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wu, J., Witkiewitz, K., McMahon, R. J., & Dodge, K. A. (2010). A parallel process growth mixture model of conduct problems and substance use with risky sexual behavior. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 111, 207–214.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Xiaojin, C., Tyler, K. A., Whitbeck, L. B., & Hoyt, D. R. (2004). Early sexual abuse, street adversity, and drug use among female homeless and runaway adolescents in the Midwest. Journal of Drug Issues, 34, 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zimmerman, M. A., & Bingenheimer, J. B. (2002). Natural mentors and adolescent resiliency: A study with urban youth. American Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 221–243.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations