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The Impact of Future Expectations on Adolescent Sexual Risk Behavior

Abstract

Rates of STIs, HIV, and pregnancy remain high among adolescents in the US, and recent approaches to reducing sexual risk have shown limited success. Future expectations, or the extent to which one expects an event to actually occur, may influence sexual risk behavior. This prospective study uses longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (n = 3,205 adolescents; 49.8 % female) to examine the impact of previously derived latent classes of future expectations on sexual risk behavior. Cox regression and latent growth models were used to determine the effect of future expectations on age at first biological child, number of sexual partners, and inconsistent contraception use. The results indicate that classes of future expectations were uniquely associated with each outcome. The latent class reporting expectations of drinking and being arrested was consistently associated with the greatest risks of engaging in sexual risk behavior compared with the referent class, which reported expectations of attending school and little engagement in delinquent behaviors. The class reporting expectations of attending school and drinking was associated with having greater numbers of sexual partners and inconsistent contraception use but not with age at first biological child. The third class, defined by expectations of victimization, was not associated with any outcome in adjusted models, despite being associated with being younger at the birth of their first child in the unadjusted analysis. Gender moderated specific associations between latent classes and sexual risk outcomes. Future expectations, conceptualized as a multidimensional construct, may have a unique ability to explain sexual risk behaviors over time. Future strategies should target multiple expectations and use multiple levels of influence to improve individual future expectations prior to high school and throughout the adolescent period.

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Acknowledgments

This project was supported by Award Number T32MH020031 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIMH or the NIH.

Author contributions

H.S. conceived of the analysis, participated in its design, conducted the analysis, participated in the interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; J.I., H.L., and T.K. participated in its design, the interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors critically read and made edits to earlier versions of the manuscript and approve its final version.

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Correspondence to Heather L. Sipsma.

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Sipsma, H.L., Ickovics, J.R., Lin, H. et al. The Impact of Future Expectations on Adolescent Sexual Risk Behavior. J Youth Adolescence 44, 170–183 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-0082-7

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Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Future expectations
  • Sexual risk
  • Behavior