Human sexual behavior and young adulthood

Annotated Bibliography

  1. Coley, Medeiros, and Schindler (2008) explicitly examined the consequences of risky human sexual behavior and young adulthood. The authors found a highly significant relationship between risky sexual behavior during mid adolescence (from ages 14 to 16) and risky sexual behavior during late adolescence (from ages 15 to 19), suggesting that there is

some stability in risky sexual behavior over time. Specifically, they found that controlling for early drug use, that having unprotected sex during adolescence (when respondents were

on average 14 years old) predicted drug use during late adolescence/young adulthood

(when respondents were on average 19 years old).

  1. Coker, Richter, Valois, McKeown, Garrison, and Vincent (2004) found evidence that early sexual behavior was associated with a greater lifetime number of sexual partners, a lower likelihood of using a condom during their last sexual encounter, a higher likelihood of becoming pregnant or impregnating a partner as a teenager, and, for girls, a higher incidence of STDs. The authors concluded that the link between early and risky sexual behavior is logical. Youth who engage in early sexual behavior are less experienced and less mature than youth who wait until later adolescence to initiate sexual behavior, thus they are less aware of the physical and emotional risks associated with sexual intercourse. In turn, if they are unaware of the potential consequences of engaging in sexual intercourse, they will be less likely to protect themselves from STDs by using condoms or to see the danger in having multiple partners or having sexual intercourse while using substances like alcohol or marijuana (Coker, et al., 2004).

  1. Crosby et al., 2005 studied sexual behavior and the rates of STIs and HIV/AIDS, condom and contraceptive among adolescents and have found that adolescents who use condoms often encounter condom failure (e.g., a condom slipping or breaking during intercourse). The authors cited an example that when asked to indicate the number of condom failures experienced in the past 90 days, 21% of adolescent males and 17% of adolescent females reported at least one incident of failure (Crosby et al). In addition, 10% of males and 13% of females reported two failures. Taken together, this suggests that a substantial amount of adolescents are at risk for experiencing the potentially negative health consequences

associated with sexual activity.

  1. Duncan, Strycker, and Duncan (1999) found that a more rapid increase in cigarette use over an 18 month observation period predicted a more rapid increase in risky sexual behavior. Moreover, they found out that youths that exhibited higher levels of lifetime alcohol use, current alcohol use, and binge drinking were also more likely to exhibit high levels of risky sexual behavior, including early sexual initiation, greater number of partners, and inconsistent condom use. Concurrent risk behaviors such as smoking, drug use, alcohol use, and delinquency also relate to high-risk sexual behaviors (Duncan et al., 1999).
  2. Eaton, Davis, Barrios, Brener, and Noonan (2007) investigated the effect of adolescent risk behaviors on dating violence victimization in a sample of high school students. Their study found that as the number of lifetime sexual partners increased, the odds of being a victim of dating violence also increased. There could be a few reasons for this finding. One straightforward reason may simply be that as the sheer number of partners increases, so does the likelihood of interacting with one that is violent. Perhaps it is something more complex, such as youth who jump from partner to partner have less time to build trust, communication, and other relationship skills that allow them to select better partners and foster better quality relationships. Although this study is limited to adolescence, it is noteworthy that risky sexual behavior has a short-term impact on partner relationship quality.
  3. Hahm et al. (2008) examined the prospective influence of parental approval of sexual behavior and contraceptive use in adolescence on sexual behavior and health outcomes among Asian and Pacific Islander young adults. Controlling for parental education and attachment in the parent-adolescent relationship, adolescents’ perceptions that their mothers approved of them being sexually active predicted a greater likelihood of having paid money for sex and for having multiple sexual partners in early adulthood In addition, maternal approval predicted early coital debut (before age 15) and the likelihood of being diagnosed with an STI in early adulthood. Interestingly, none of the other parenting practices were statistically significant predictors of young adult sexual behavior and health outcomes.
  4. Hall et al. (2008) studied HIV/AIDS among adolescents since sexually active adolescents are vulnerable to the potentially negative health consequences of sexual activity, including the acquisition of HIV. Using data they collected from 2006, their findings indicated that approximately 34% of all new infections occurred among young people aged 13-29 years old This estimate is fairly consistent with other studies, which have suggested that approximately 12% to 30% of all HIV infections in the U.S. occur among persons younger than 25 years

old (Hall et al.,2008).

  1. Halpern and colleagues (2006) identified a number of adolescent biopsychosocial predictors of sexual behavior in early adulthood (e.g., being a virgin, engaging in premarital sexual intercourse, or postponing sexual intercourse until after marriage). In separate models for young adult males and females, Halpern et al. found that perceptions of parental disapproval of sexual behavior significantly differentiated young adult females who were virgins and young adult females who had decided to postpone sex until after marriage from their peers who had engaged in premarital sexual intercourse. For males, the only significant difference for expressions of parental disapproval was observed between male virgins and males who had engaged in premarital sexual intercourse. Studies have found this to be true for intimate partner violence during young adulthood as well.
  2. Harned (2002) found a link between the number of casual dating partners and risk for

being a victim of sexual dating violence, as well as the number of serious dating partners

and risk for being a victim of psychological dating violence. Lifetime number of sexual

partners also predicts intimate partner violence perpetration and victimization during

young adulthood.

  1. Koyle, Jensen, Olsen, and Cundick (1989) examined the sexual behavior of adolescents who had early, middle, and late transitions to sexual intercourse. They found a relationship between the timing of intercourse and subsequent risky sexual behavior. Those who initiated sexual activity early had a higher number of partners and, for females, a higher frequency of intercourse. The authors also found that early sexual intercourse influences subsequent risky sexual behavior. Adolescents reporting sexual activity at or before age 15 were significantly less likely to report regular condom use and significantly more likely to report having multiple partners, ever getting pregnant or impregnating their partner, having a child as a teenager, and, for girls, having high frequency of sexual intercourse (Koyle, et al., 1989).
  2. Manning et al. (2009) explicitly examined the link between risky sexual behavior and the quality of later partner relationships, but there is evidence to indicate that one exists. They have studied the association between relationship dynamics and consistency of condom use during adolescence. Their findings suggest a complex relationship between condom use and relationship quality, such that both positive and negative relationship qualities decrease the likelihood of consistent condom use. These findings are informative, however, the sample was restricted to youth who had sexual intercourse within the context of a dating relationship so cannot be generalized to a larger sample of adolescents.

These authors find evidence that the quality of adolescent dating relationships affect

young adult relationship quality. Specifically, support from adolescent romantic partners, along with social support from parents, social support from peers, and self-concept, significantly predicts bonded love in young adulthood.

  1. Meier and Allen (2007) found that the less youth date during adolescence, the fewer relationships they report and the less likely they are to cohabit in young adulthood, while youth who consistently report steady relationships in adolescence are more likely to get married. They also find that youth who engage in sexual intercourse within their adolescent relationships report a higher number of relationships and a greater likelihood of cohabiting and marrying during young adulthood. Although this discussion centered primarily on adolescent dating relationships and sexual behavior within these relationships and not risky sexual behavior per se, it is likely that “extensive sexual experience outside of dating relationships” has an impact on intimate partner relationships as well (Manning et al., 2008, p. 23).
  2. Moilanen et al. (2010). The authors provide a longer-term look at the consequences of risky sexual behavior. Moilanen and colleagues estimated trajectories of risky sexual behavior from age 16 to 22 then examined correlates of these trajectories at age 22 (the trajectory endpoint). They found that members of the high-risk trajectory group were less likely to attend college, less likely to be married, more likely to cohabit with a partner, more likely to have children, and had a higher number of dating partners than members of the low-risk group. Of note, the authors also found that young adults not attending college were significantly more likely to exhibit risky sexual behavior. Moilanen et al.’s study makes an important contribution to the gap in the literature and supports the notion that risky sexual behavior during adolescence and young adulthood, especially stable risky sexual behavior, has a significant association with partner relationships during young adulthood.
  3. O’Donnell, O’Donnell, and Stueve (2001) found that early sexual intercourse predicted a variety of adolescent risky sexual behaviors including the lifetime number of partners, pregnancy, forced sex, frequency of sex, and being drunk or high during recent sexual intercourse. Moreover, the authors found that, compared to girls that initiated sexual intercourse in early adolescence, girls that initiated sexual intercourse in late adolescence were more likely to have used contraception at first intercourse.
  4. Paul et al. (2000) documented the tendency for young adults to “hook up” or to engage in brief and casual sexual relationships. These authors define a hook-up as “a sexual encounter, usually lasting only one night, between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances” (p. 76). Hooking-up can entail both coital and non-coital sexual behaviors that can increase the risk of unintended pregnancies, STIs, and HIV/AIDS. The authors found that while 78% of college students reported engaging in a hookup, only 30% indicated that the hook-up involved vaginal sexual intercourse (Paul et al., 2000).
  5. Raley, Crissey, and Muller (2007) find that adolescents who report having a romantic partner are more likely to cohabit with or marry a partner in young adulthood. This finding is true whether or not the youth reported sexual intercourse within the relationship. Interestingly, sexual intercourse outside of a relationship during adolescence significantly predicted cohabitation during young adulthood, but not marriage.
  6. Rangel and colleagues (2006) collected to date, the most detailed analysis of HIV/AIDS among young people using data collected by the CDC in 2003. With respect to HIV infection, 24% of the 3,896 cases of HIV diagnosed in 2003 occurred among adolescents aged 13-19 years old. In early adolescence, gender disparities in HIV infection begin to emerge. Among the 2% of infected youth aged 13-15 years old, 77% of new HIV diagnoses occurred in females, suggesting a feminizing of the HIV epidemic among young adolescents. However, this disparity is not observed among older adolescents aged 16-19 years old, where young men who have sex with men begin to experience disproportionately higher rates of HIV infection. For all adolescents, the leading cause of HIV infection is sexual behavior (Rangel et al., 2006).
  7. Woodward, Fergusson, and Horwood (2002) found that, after adjusting for potential confounding variables, youth who reported antisocial behavior problems in childhood or adolescence were more likely to report poor quality partner relationships at age twenty-one, including more interpartner conflict and more relationship ambivalence. In addition, parent’s harsh discipline predicted these measures of relationship quality.
  8. Zhang, Brook, Adams, Balka, Whiteman, and Sugerman (2004) provide further evidence that risky problem behaviors predict risky sexual behavior. The authors concluded that illicit drug use measured at Time 1 significantly predicted Time 2 multiple partners, unprotected sex, STDs, and adolescent pregnancy. Conversely, Time 1 multiple partners, STDs, and adolescent pregnancy did not significantly predict Time 2 illicit drug use. Only Time 1 unprotected sex predicted Time 2 illicit drug use. This suggests that risky problem behaviors are more likely to influence later risky sex and not the other way around. A measure of problem behavior more generally, which includes substance use and antisocial behavior, also is higher among adolescents participating in higher risk sexual

Behaviors. Possibly this is indicative of an underlying risk-taking personality that manifests during adolescence as participating in risky behaviors, or even a problem behavior syndrome (Zhang et al., 2004).

  1. Zimmer-Gembeck, Siebenbruner, & Collins (2004) concluded that in general, older adolescents tend to report higher rates of sexual activity than younger adolescents. They cited an example that whereas only 33% of ninth grade students report having ever had sexual intercourse, the proportion of non-virgin youth increases to 44% among 10th graders, 56% for 11th graders, and a high of 65% for adolescents who are in the 12th grade. In part, this may reflect the normative developmental aspect of dating and romantic relationships during adolescence. As adolescents mature and progress toward adulthood, dating and romantic relationships become more common, thus increasing the likelihood of sexual activity










Coley, R. L., Medeiros, B. L., & Schindler, H. S. (2008). Using sibling differences to

estimate effects of parenting on adolescent sexual risk behaviors. Journal of

Adolescent Health, 43, 133-140.

Crosby, R., Salazar, L., DiClemente, R. J., Yarber, W. L. Caliendo, A. M., Staples-Horne,

  1. (2005). Accounting for failures may improve precision: Evidence supporting

improved validity of self-reported condom use. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 32,


Duncan, S. C., Strycker, L. A., & Duncan, T. E. (1999). Exploring associations in

developmental trends of adolescent substance use and risky sexual behavior in a high-risk population. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 22(1), 21-34.

Eaton, D. K., Davis, K. S., Barrios, L., Brener, N. D., & Noonan, R. K. (2007).

Associations of dating violence victimization with lifetime participation, co-occurrence, and early initiation of risk behaviors among U.S. high school

students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(5), 585-602.

Hahm, H. C, Lee, J., Zerden, L., Ozonoff, A., & Amodeo, M. (2008). Longitudinal effects

of perceptions of maternal approval on sexual risk behaviors of Asian and Pacific

Islander (API) adolescents transitioning to young adulthood.” Journal of Youth and

Adolescence, 37, 74-84.

Hall, H. I., Song, R., Rhodes, P., Prejean, J., An, Q., Lee, L. M., et al. (2008). Estimation

of HIV incidence in the United States. Journal of the American Medical

Association, 300, 520-529.

Halpern, C. T., Waller, M. W., Spriggs, A., & Hallfors, D. D. (2006). Adolescent

predictors of emerging adult sexual patterns. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39,


Manning, W. D., Flanigan, C. M., Giordano, P. C., & Longmore, M. A. (2009).

Relationship dynamic and consistency of condom use among adolescents.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 41(3), 181-190.

Meier, A., & Allen, G. (2007). Romantic relationships from adolescence to young

adulthood: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Working Paper No. 2007-03. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center,

University of Minnesota.

Moilanen, K. L., Crockett, L. J., Raffaelli, M., & Jones, B. L. (2010). Trajectories of sexual

risk from middle adolescence to early adulthood. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20(1), 114-139.

O’Donnell, L., O’Donnell, C. R., & Stueve, A. (2001). Early sexual initiation and

subsequent sex-related risks among urban minority youth: The Reach for Health

study. Family Planning Perspectives, 33(6), 268-275.

Paul, E. L., McManus, B., & Hayes, A. (2000). “Hookups”: Characteristics and correlates of

college students’ spontaneous and anonymous sexual experiences. Journal of

Sex Research, 37, 76-88.

Raley, R. K., Crissey, S., & Muller, C. (2007). Of sex and romance: Late adolescent

relastionships and young adult union formation. Journal of Marriage and Family,

69, 1210-1226.

Rangel, M., Gavin, L., Reed, C, Fowler, M., & Lee, L. (2006). Epidemiology of HIV and

AIDS among adolescents and young adults in the United States. Journal of

Adolescent Health, 39,156-163.

Woodward, L. J., Fergusson, D. M., & Horwood, L. J. (2002). Romantic relationships of

young people with childhood and adolescent onset antisocial behavior problems.

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30(3), 231-243.

Zimrner-Gembeck, M. J., Siebenbruner, J., & Collins, W.A. (2004). A prospective study

of intraindividual and peer influences on adolescents’ heterosexual romantic and

sexual behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33, 381-394.




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