Early initiation of sex and its lack of association with risk behaviors among adolescent African-Americans.Pediatrics. 1993 Jul; 92(1):13-9.Ped
High rates of adolescent homicide, pregnancy, substance abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases underscore the importance of interventions designed to reduce problem behaviors. However, the definition of "problem" behavior and the association with other activities may change between youth cultures. Therefore, greater attention to defining the "problem" behaviors to be targeted will permit more effective utilization of primary vs secondary intervention strategies and identification of high-risk individuals.
Two studies of African-American adolescents regarding sexual intercourse, school truancy, substance abuse, and drug trafficking are presented. The first study involved 57 youths (10 to 14 years of age) from a pediatric primary health center and gathered data through pile-sorting. The second study of 300 youths (9 to 15 years of age) from six public housing sites used a questionnaire administered by a "talking" computer. Both studies assessed different self-reported behaviors, feelings about engaging in specific behaviors, and perceptions of friends' behaviors.
While 40% of subjects reported having had sex, substantially smaller proportions reported school truancy (14%), illicit drug use (2% to 6%), or drug trafficking (6%). Analyses of reported behaviors, feelings, and perceived peer norms revealed that sex was consistently depicted as forming a different domain from other problem behaviors.
Interventions that rely on primary prevention strategies for sexual intercourse and that identify sexually active youths as at risk for problem behaviors may not be appropriate for African-American adolescents growing up in resource-depleted urban areas.