Adolescent Sexual Activity, Substance Use and Attachment to Conventional Institutions in Three Western Nations

Aubrey L. Spriggs, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Tilda Farhat, Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), NIH
Carolyn Tucker Halpern, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, National University of Ireland

In the U.S., adolescent sexual activity is typically framed as a problem behavior associated with substance use and unconventionality. Despite similar levels of adolescent sexual activity, Western countries vary widely in adolescent pregnancy and STI rates; therefore, adolescent sexual experience may be differentially related to other outcomes as well. Data from 15-year-old participants in the 1997-1998 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey (Finland and Scotland) and the 1996 U.S. Add Health survey were utilized (N=3,377). After controlling for family socioeconomic status, living arrangement and country fixed effects, sexual initiation was similarly negatively related to school attachment among boys and girls across nations; however, maternal communication was negatively related to sexual initiation only among U.S. females. Sexual initiation was positively associated with substance use among boys and girls across nations, although associations were stronger in Scotland and Finland than the U.S. Findings partially support the cross-cultural applicability of Problem Behavior Theory.

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Presented in Session 131: Comparative Perspectives on Sexuality, Family Planning and Fertility