Keeping it real: Executive function and sexual health self management of Houston middle school students

Jina Joan Dcruz, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Introduction. Early adolescent sexual behavior and its association with executive function (EF) and its sub-scales (inhibitory control, attention shift and monitoring) is an under studied area. Three separate studies evaluated (1) the psychometric measurement invariance of an abbreviated Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function Self-Report (BRIEF-SR) across gender and race/ethnic groups (2) the association between executive function and adolescent sexual behaviors and its psychosocial determinants, and (3) the association between executive function and intervention exposure to Its Your Game-Tech (IYG-Tech) and assessment of EF as an intervention outcome. ^ Methods. This secondary data analysis used data from 984 10th graders between the ages of 15 and 18 years who participated in the 24-month follow-up assessment from the randomized two-arm nested IYG Tech study. We measured self-reported executive function, lifetime sexual behavior, condom use and psychosocial measures of self-efficacy and intentions related to sexual behavior and abstinence. We used multi group confirmatory factor analysis and measurement invariance testing, multivariate logistic and linear regressions and linear mixed effects modeling for data analysis. ^ Results. BRIEF-SR has good psychometric measurement invariance across gender and race/ethnic groups and could be used to evaluate individual differences across these subgroups. Executive functioning was significantly related to lowered odds of sexual behavior (AOR = 0.95, CI: 0.92-0.99, p < .05) and greater likelihood of condom use in adolescents (AOR = 1.09, CI: 1.00-1.18, p < .05). We also found significant differences in associations between executive functioning and psychosocial determinants of sexual behavior. Gender and race/ethnic differences were found for associations of executive function and sexual risk taking. Youth who had exposure to all 13 lessons demonstrated higher levels of executive functioning (at p < .10) and inhibitory control (p < .05). Specifically, youth who went through Lessons 1, 2, 3 and 4 demonstrated higher executive function (b = 1.10, se (b) = 0.57, z = 1.92, p < .05) and higher inhibitory control scores (b = 1.06, se (b) = 0.38, z = 2.77, p < .01) compared to other curriculum lessons. ^ Conclusions. BRIEF-SR is a reliable measurement instrument to evaluate between-group comparisons of EF differences in adolescents. Executive function, specifically inhibitory control, is a significant predictor of adolescent sexual behaviors and its determinants. Intervention exposure maybe an influential factor in EF development, specifically for inhibitory control skills. This research can aid intervention developers to design strategies to tailor behavior change based on executive function attributes of youth.^

Subject Area

Psychology, Behavioral|Health Sciences, Public Health|Psychology, Psychometrics

Recommended Citation

Dcruz, Jina Joan, "Keeping it real: Executive function and sexual health self management of Houston middle school students" (2014). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3689751.