Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 549–560 | Cite as

Self-Esteem, Risky Sexual Behavior, and Pregnancy in a New Zealand Birth Cohort

  • Joseph M. BodenEmail author
  • L. John Horwood
Original Paper


This study examined the relationship between self-esteem in adolescence and later risky sexual behavior and pregnancy in late adolescence and early adulthood. The investigation analyzed data from a birth cohort of over 1,000 New Zealand young adults studied to the age of 25. Lower levels of self-esteem at age 15 were associated with greater risks of engaging in unprotected sex (sexual intercourse with either an opposite- or same-sex partner without using a condom), a greater number of sexual partners, and a greater risk of pregnancy at ages 15–25. Adjustment for potentially confounding factors, including family socioeconomic background, family functioning, child abuse, and individual characteristics and behavior, reduced the strength of these associations to statistically non-significant levels. It was concluded that the effects of self-esteem during adolescence on later risky sexual behavior and pregnancy were weak and largely explained by the psychosocial context within which self-esteem develops.


Self-esteem Risky sexual behavior Pregnancy Longitudinal study 



This research was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the National Child Health Research Foundation, the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Christchurch Health and Development StudyChristchurch School of Medicine and Health SciencesChristchurchNew Zealand

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