Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 45–62 | Cite as

Family Financial Stress and Adolescent Sexual Risk-Taking: The Role of Self-Regulation

  • AliceAnn Crandall
  • Brianna M. Magnusson
  • M. Lelinneth B. Novilla
  • Lynneth Kirsten B. Novilla
  • W. Justin Dyer
Empirical Research


The ability to control one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors is known as self-regulation. Family stress and low adolescent self-regulation have been linked with increased engagement in risky sexual behaviors, which peak in late adolescence and early adulthood. The purpose of this study was to assess whether adolescent self-regulation, measured by parent and adolescent self-report and respiratory sinus arrhythmia, mediates or moderates the relationship between family financial stress and risky sexual behaviors. We assessed these relationships in a 4-year longitudinal sample of 450 adolescents (52 % female; 70 % white) and their parents using structural equation modeling. Results indicated that high family financial stress predicts engagement in risky sexual behaviors as mediated, but not moderated, by adolescent self-regulation. The results suggest that adolescent self-regulatory capacities are a mechanism through which proximal external forces influence adolescent risk-taking. Promoting adolescent self-regulation, especially in the face of external stressors, may be an important method to reduce risk-taking behaviors as adolescents transition to adulthood.


Adolescence Family stress Respiratory sinus arrhythmia Self-regulation Sexual risk-taking Structural equation modeling 



We thank the College of Family, Home, and Social Science, and the many donors and supporters of the Family Studies Center at Brigham Young University who provided generous financial assistance for this project for many years.

Authors’ Contributions

AC conceived of the study and the analytical design, performed statistical analyses and interpretation, and drafted the manuscript. WJD was a principal investigator for the Flourishing Families Project and helped with the statistical analysis, theory, and interpretation of results. BMM and MLBN helped with the conceptualization and design of the study and interpretation of results. LKBN helped with the theoretical basis for the study and drafting of the Background section. All authors helped draft the manuscript and read and approved the final manuscript.


The Flourishing Families Project was funded by Brigham Young University (U.S.) College of Family, Home, and Social Science (Principal Investigator: Randal D. Day).

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

The Brigham Young University Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved the Flourishing Families Project. The Flourishing Families Project involved human participants who provided informed consent in accordance with the procedures established with the institutional ethics committee. This current study was a secondary data analysis using the Flourishing Families Project data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • AliceAnn Crandall
    • 1
  • Brianna M. Magnusson
    • 1
  • M. Lelinneth B. Novilla
    • 1
  • Lynneth Kirsten B. Novilla
    • 1
  • W. Justin Dyer
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Health ScienceBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Religious EducationBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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