Depressive symptoms and sexual risk behaviors in adolescents

Rosalind Curry Jackson, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The purpose of this study was to determine whether depression is a factor in explaining the difference in sex behaviors among adolescents with different ethnic backgrounds, family and school contexts. We hypothesize that adolescents with a higher number of depressive symptoms are more likely to engage in sexual risk behaviors than adolescents with fewer depressive symptoms. Further, adolescent depression and sexual behaviors are mediated or moderated by individual characteristics, family and school contexts. Background. large ethnic disparities exist in adolescent engagement in risky sexual behaviors, yet, there is little in the literature that explains these disparities. Studies of sexual behavior of youths abound; yet, there is little literature on the prevalence and correlates of depression or the association between depression and sexual behaviors among different ethnic groups. Objectives. (1) To determine ethnic differences in the prevalence of depressive symptoms using data collected through the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). (2) To determine predictors of sex risk behaviors among adolescents, including the role of depression. (3) To identify predictors of depression among these adolescents. Methods. Add Health data from wave 1 and wave 2 interviews of 7th–12th graders were analyzed using multivariate models constructed with both depression and sexual behavior as outcome variables. Logistic regression models determined whether and to what extent the independent variables, including depression, sex behaviors, demographic factors, individual and family characteristics, and school context were related to the probability of engaging in risky sexual behaviors. Results. Ethnic differences in depressive symptoms did not persist after demographic and contextual variables were included in the model. Sex behaviors all shared the hypothesized relationship with depressive symptoms. The odds of risky sex behaviors increased as number of depressive symptoms increased. Depression was predicted by marijuana use and having a serious argument with father for males at Wave 1 and by age and future orientation for females. Wave 2 depression was predicted by Wave 1 depression.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Public health|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Jackson, Rosalind Curry, "Depressive symptoms and sexual risk behaviors in adolescents" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3155309.