Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16963 Emotions and Cognitions As Predictors of Early Adolescent Sexual Behavior In Dominican Youths In New York City and In the Dominican Republic

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 5:00 PM
Constitution E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, PhD, Professor, New York University, New York, NY
Viktor Lushin, MSW, PhD Student, New York University, Brooklyn, NY
Background and purpose: HIV disproportionately affects Dominican youth, both in the US and in the Dominican Republic (DR). Limited research has explained variations in sexual risk behavior within distinct Dominican subgroups. This study examines the relationship between expectancies and emotions as predictors of sexual risk behavior among three groups of Dominican adolescents: those born in New York City, recent immigrants from the DR, and those born and always residing in the DR. The present study explores the role of specific predictors of sexual behavior among Dominican youths embedded in distinct ecological contexts.

Methods: The total sample of 1221 Dominican adolescents from the Bronx (N=1008) and the DR (N=213) were randomly recruited. Data were collected via self-administered questionnaires. Primary measures included sexual behavior, positive and negative expectancies, and positive and negative emotions. The primary analytic method relied on ordinary least squares and logistic regression. Higher order interaction analyses were conducted using product terms to examine the potential moderating effects of gender and migration status.

Results: Several interesting results emerged. First, both positive emotions and positive expectancies strongly predicted sexual risk behavior while negative expectancies i.e., acquiring HIV and/or STIs were less predictive. This finding is counter to most adolescent sexual risk reduction programs that emphasize the negative health outcomes of teen sexual behavior. Secondly, migration status was associated with sexual risk behavior. Specifically, Dominican youth born and always residing in the DR demonstrated a tendency towards higher levels of sexual risk behavior. This finding highlights the importance of ecological context in relation to adolescent sexual behavior. In the current study, all the youths share a common Dominican ethnicity, yet differences in sexual behavior were observed as a function of differential exposures to the U.S. and Dominican contexts. Lastly, gender differences were observed in sexual risk behavior such that boys tended to report higher levels of sexual behavior relative to girls and more positive expectancies and emotions. Several notable conditional effects were observed in the above main effects and are discussed within the paper.

Conclusions and Implications: HIV prevention programs targeting Latino, including Dominican, youth tend to focus on negative expectancies such as HIV, STIs, etc. Our results indicate that positive expectancies and positive emotions were more salient in shaping sexual behavior in Dominican youth. This finding has important implications for the development of interventions that target sexual risk behavior among Dominican youths. HIV prevention programs should give higher priority to the constructs related to positive emotions and cognitions, such as relationship considerations. Additionally, our data shifts focus from membership in a specific Latino ethnic nativity and emphasizes contextual exposures and gender as factors shaping sexual risk behaviors. Targeted prevention programs may be needed for youths in distinct contexts, such as in the U.S. and in the DR; and for boys and girls.