Sexual risk behavior profiles among college women: Examination of individual and microsystem correlates
One important task of emerging adulthood is the formation of romantic partnerships and initiation of sexual relationships. For many women, college serves as an environment that tends to foster sexual exploration and development, as college students are exposed to increased independence from parents, are surrounded by same-age peers, and have limited real-world responsibilities. Further, for many women, college is the first experience of long term romantic relationships and students may also become sexually active. However, in the process of navigating these tasks related to sexual development, many college women engage in sexual risk behaviors, resulting in various physical, emotional, and social consequences. Such risk behaviors include uncommitted or casual sex, consuming alcohol or using drugs before or during sex, impulsive sexual behaviors, and engaging in sexual behaviors with risky partners. Certain aspects of campus culture can certainly contribute to encouraging or promoting engagement in sexual risk behaviors. Previous research has supported that there are likely many unique individual and environmental influences that affect college women's sexual decision making and development. Additionally, some research has specifically examined profiles of young adults' sexual behavior, and have identified several distinct behavioral groups, highlighting multiple non-risky and risky sexual behavior profiles. This research supports the notion that college students are engaging in different patterns of sexual behaviors, varying in risk level. However, there is limited work overall in this area, and there are several limitations among the existing literature, including utilizing a narrow definition of sexual risk behavior (e.g., only assessing lifetime sexual partners, dichotomizing behavior as risky or not risky), examining specific subgroups only (e.g. African American women), and largely failing to consider environmental and external influences on sexual behavior among college women. In order to address the limitations in the current literature and to gain a clearer understanding of the different profiles of sexual behavior among this population, the current dissertation sought to identify profiles of sexual risk behavior by utilizing a latent profile analysis among a sample of 1,534 sexually active college women between the ages of 18 and 25. Specifically, sexual behavior profiles related to a number of sexual risk behaviors (e.g., uncommitted and causal sexual behaviors, unexpected and unanticipated sexual behaviors, and alcohol-related sexual behaviors) were examined. Further, using multinomial logistic regressions, individual and microsystem correlates associated with profile membership were further examined, including sexual motives, sexual functioning and satisfaction, drinking behavior, psychological adjustment, perception of peer norms, and perception of peer approval of sexual risk behaviors. Results supported that the data best fit a four class model of the following four profiles: low risk, moderate risk: party hookups, moderate risk: risky partners, and high risk. Notable correlates related to profile membership included hazardous drinking, endorsement of coping motives for sex, sexual satisfaction, perception of peer norms, and perception of peer approval. Though there are some limitations of the current research, this dissertation provides evidence of the presence of different behavioral patterns regarding sexual risk behavior among college women. Further research directions and specific clinical implications are discussed, as the results provide valuable information that could contribute to tailoring sexual health interventions among college women.
Rudolph, Kelly. (April 2019). Sexual risk behavior profiles among college women: Examination of individual and microsystem correlates (Doctoral Dissertation, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7216.)
Rudolph, Kelly. Sexual risk behavior profiles among college women: Examination of individual and microsystem correlates. Doctoral Dissertation. East Carolina University, April 2019. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/7216. July 31, 2021.
Rudolph, Kelly, “Sexual risk behavior profiles among college women: Examination of individual and microsystem correlates” (Doctoral Dissertation., East Carolina University, April 2019).
Rudolph, Kelly. Sexual risk behavior profiles among college women: Examination of individual and microsystem correlates [Doctoral Dissertation]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; April 2019.
East Carolina University