Past research has revealed that youth in low income neighborhoods engage in higher rates of risky sexual activity than those in more affluent neighborhoods. Family composition factors have been associated with this disparity. Previous studies have addressed mother-child relationships; however, literature examining the father-child relationship as a potential predictor of adolescent sexual risk is limited. This research considers how the presence or absence of a father figure, as well as the presence or absence of a biological father during early adolescence, may be related to trajectories of sexual intercourse during later adolescence. This research was conducted during the author’s participation in a summer 2008 research project at the University of Alabama.
Using data from the Mobile Youth Survey (MYS), a multiple cohort longitudinal study of poverty and adolescent risk was conducted in the most impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama (2000 census median poverty: 57.2%). This program has enrolled and collected data annually from 7,500 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18, 98.7% of whom have been African-American. Results of the first analysis used for the study suggest that respondents’ sexual activity increases as a linear function of age, with a steeper slope for those without a father figure during early adolescence. A second statistical model revealed that sexual activity for females without a biological father during early adolescence increases at a steeper rate through later adolescence than for females with a biological father during early adolescence. In comparison, sexual behavior of males with and without biological fathers during early adolescence increased at almost identical rates.
Puroitree Majumdar, ’10 Delhi, India
Majors: Psychology, Biology
Sponsor: Carolyn Enns