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Advisory Committee Chair

Sylvie Mrug

Advisory Committee Members

Susan Davies

Frank Franklin

David Knight

Jessica Mirman

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2018

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

This present study addresses the effect of neighborhood decay and a need for security on early sexual initiation, use of contraception, number of sexual partners, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI). As part of a larger investigation of adolescent health (Healthy Passages) the sample included 1,253 youth who were recruited from 5th grade classrooms in public schools in Birmingham, Alabama and followed throughout adolescence [1]. At baseline (Mage=11 years), trained observers completed assessments of neighborhood decay and security; geocoded census tract data yielded a composite measure of concentrated poverty; and youth and parents reported on their demographics and family functioning. Approximately eight years later (Mage=19 years), youth reported age of sexual initiation, contraceptive use, number of sexual partners, pregnancy, and STI. Multilevel models and survival analysis predicted risky sex outcomes from observed neighborhood disorder, census-based neighborhood disadvantage, and reported family functioning. Results indicate that youth who reside in disordered neighborhoods in late childhood are more likely to have a greater number of sexual partners in the last 12 months. Further, greater cohesion and parental knowledge were protective against teen pregnancy and having a sexually transmitted infection by Wave 4. Furthermore, family functioning moderated the relationship between neighborhood disorder and risky sexual behaviors, such that poorer family functioning amplified the effects of neighborhood disorder. These results suggest that youth who live in disorganized and disadvantaged neighborhoods, as well as those who experience poor family functioning, are more likely to engage in sexual behaviors that place them at risk for negative outcomes in later adolescence and adulthood. Some of these neighborhood effects, however, may also be explained by family-level factors related to household poverty. Therefore, interventions to address adolescent risky sexual behavior must incorporate influences from multiple system-levels.

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