Correlates of Sex Risk Behvaior (SRB) in African American Youth Living in Urban Public Housing
African American adolescents and young adults are also at highest risk for other SRB (e.g., multiple sex partners, drugs during sex and non-condom use) due to their over-representation in neighborhoods, such as urban public housing, where risk factors for SRB are concentrated. African American families use public housing at a rate twice as high as the private reenters’ market. Only recently has research examined SRB within public housing settings.
Existing evidence suggests that environmental, familial and individual factors influence the prevalence of SRB in African American adolescents and young adults. For example, exposure to community violence, household conflict and involvement in antisocial behavior (drug use and delinquency) has been associated with the prevalence of SRB in this vulnerable population of youth. The purpose of this paper is to assess how, or whether, exposure to community violence and familial factors in addition to individuals’ behaviors (ever used drugs and delinquent behavior) are related to SRB.
The sample includes 295 sexually active African American youth (mean age = 17.68; SD = 3; females = 45%) recruited from public housing developments in three large US cities. Total SRB was measured using a composite score that included the following variables: on-set of sex at age 13 or younger; 4 or more lifetime sex partners; used drugs / alcohol during sex; and used condom during sex (CDC; YRBS). Responses were dichotomized (yes = 2 and no =1) and summed to render a total SRB Index. The SRB Index had an empirical range of 3 to 7, with a mean of 4.22 (SD=.9). The analytic procedures included univariate, bivariate and hierarchical regression analyses.
Males reported significantly higher SRB. At the bivariate level, SRB had a positive and significant relationship with delinquency, household conflict and community violence, and was inversely related to maternal encouragement and monitoring. SRB was unrelated to paternal behavior and age. The hierarchical regression model was significant explaining 38 % of the variance in SRB. Gender, substance use and delinquency explained a unique 36% of SRB, with household conflict accounting for the remaining 2% of the variance. Parents’ behavior, age and community violence were unrelated to SRB.
Results indicate that community health workers interested in reducing SRB in youth should focus their efforts on reducing deviant behavior in males living in households marked by conflict. Implications to practice are further discussed. Considering that sex risk behaviors are likely to co-occur, the SRB Index has important implications to social work research.