Family Financial Stress and Adolescent Sexual Risk-Taking: The Role of Self-Regulation
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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.
KeywordsAdolescence Family stress Respiratory sinus arrhythmia Self-regulation Sexual risk-taking Structural equation modeling
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