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Focusing on the measure of risk management combing consistency of condoms and sexual exclusivity, one-quarter This could be considered an effective form of risk management.
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However, a sizeable minority, nearly one-fifth Regarding relationship quality, respondents report high levels of love and commitment with a mean score of The self-disclosure mean value indicates that the average level is In terms of demographic indicators of the relationship, the male partner is older by two or more years in about one-fifth of young adult relationships.
One-fifth of relationships involve partners of differing race and ethnicities. Most relationships are ongoing, but one-third have ended. Finally, the average relationship duration is about one year. The sociodemographic indicators show that the average age is 20, and the sample is evenly split between male and female respondents. Two-thirds of young adults are not living with relatives at the time of the interview.
The vast majority have parents who graduated from high school, and one-quarter of parents are college graduates. Table 2 presents the odds ratio of making a sexual risk inquiry prior sexual partners and sexually transmitted infections. The first column in Table 2 presents the zero-order relationships and shows that respondents in relationships with higher levels of love and self-disclosure are significantly more likely to make inquiries about sexual risk.
Conflict is not associated with whether young adults ask about sexual risk. The relationship asymmetries age and race and current status are not associated with risk inquiry. Longer duration relationships more often include queries about sexual risk. The second column includes all the relationship qualities simultaneously, and although they are related to one another, the correlations are modest.
In this model, young adults who self-disclose about other topics are more likely to ask their partners about sexual risk. The final model in column three includes all the covariates. In this model, gender mediates the effect of self-disclosure. The effect of self-disclosure is stronger for young men than women results not shown.
These findings taken together indicate that girls are more likely to self-disclose and in turn make risk inquiries. Yet there is more variability in self-disclosure among young men, and those men who do self-disclose with their partner are more likely to make queries. Conflict is negatively and marginally significantly tied to sexual risk query due to the inclusion of the covariates as described above. The age heterogamy effect is suppressed in the zero-order model. Additional analyses indicate that female young adults in relationships with older males are more likely to ask about sexual risk behaviors, but among males, the age gap does not determine whether they make sexual risk queries.
The effect of duration in the zero-order model is mediated by the relationship characteristics results not shown demonstrating the importance of the relationship quality indicators rather than just duration. The remaining covariates are generally not associated with sexual risk queries. Exceptions include girls are significantly more likely to make information requests than boys, and living with a single mom is associated with lower odds of inquiring about sexual risk. Chow tests are not statistically significant suggesting that the same model operates for male and female respondents.
Table 3 presents the risk management measure that represents a combination of sexual exclusivity and consistent condom use.
Young adults who decide whether to use condoms may be making assessments about the safety of their relationship based on sexual exclusivity. The multinomial logistic regression models show the odds ratio of each category versus the safest category sexually exclusive and consistent condom use. To conserve space, the first panel presents the zero-order relationships, and the second panel presents the full models with all the relationship characteristics and sociodemographic covariates.
Chow tests indicate that similar models are appropriate for young men and women. Seemingly Safe denotes sexually exclusive and inconsistent condom use. Managed Risk denotes sexually non-exclusive and consistent condom use. Unsafe indicates sexually non-exclusive and inconsistent condom use. The seemingly safe are relationships that are exclusive and include inconsistent condom use. Relationships with older males had higher odds of being seemingly safe rather than safe relationships.
The full model lower panel shows that conflict continues to be associated with greater odds of being in exclusive relationships that involve inconsistent condom use rather than consistent condom use. The age gap indicator is no longer related to seemingly safe or safe relationship types and is mediated with the inclusion of gender. The second column focuses on a risk management strategy of consistently using condoms in sexually non-exclusive relationships and contrasts the odds of being in the safest relationship — exclusive and consistent condom use.
Young adults in relationships with someone of a different race or ethnicity are more likely to be in a managed risk relationship than safe relationship. The multivariate model bottom panel also shows that the effect of love and commitment is marginally significant, and the self-disclosure coefficient is not related to relationship type. Additional analyses indicate that the self-disclosure effect is mediated by the love and commitment measure. Young adults in relationships with greater conflict continue to be more often in managed than safe relationships.
The third column presents the odds ratios of being in relationships with the greatest sexual risk versus the lowest sexual risk. Young adults in relationships with greater love are less likely to be in the unsafe relationships, and those with greater conflict have higher odds of being in the high-risk category. The relationship demographics are not related to relationship type, except those with racial and ethnic heterogamy have marginally higher odds of being in a risky relationship. The bottom panel shows the odds ratios for the full model.
The love and commitment measure is marginally associated with being in an unsafe versus safe relationship. The effect of conflict remains a significant predictor of sexual risk taking. These analyses do not include sexual risk inquiry as part of the sexual risk management measure because the sample size does not support this further refinement. Supplemental analyses indicate that for the two extreme categories of sexual risk safe and unsafe , young adults in the safest relationships have the greatest levels of sexual risk inquiry.
When we contrast young adults in the most safe relationships consistent condom use, sexually exclusive, and risk inquiry to those in the least safe inconsistent condom use, sexually non-exclusivity, and no risk inquiry , we find those with higher levels of love and lower levels of conflict are more likely to be in the most safe relationships. These results mirror the findings above.
Even young adults in romantic relationships appear to face sexual risks, but they attempt to manage sexual risk that exists within their relationships. We find only about half of young adults asked their sexual partner about prior partners and sexually transmitted infections; however, this finding holds some promise in that at least half did query their partner.
With regard to the other behaviors that comprise the package of safe sex practices, only about one-quarter of young adults are in relationships with sexual exclusivity and consistent condom use. Many young adults appear to be quite trusting of their sexual partner with half in relationships with sexual exclusivity and inconsistent condom use. We note that relationships are fluid, and concurrent sexual relationships can occur at any point.
One-quarter of young adults had already experienced sexual non-exclusivity in their relationship. Relationship characteristics are related to each type of risk management, but they do not always influence each type of risk management behavior in the same manner. Our findings indicate that young adults who score higher on conflict are less likely to make inquiries about sexual risk and at the same time, are most likely to be in unsafe relationships.
These young adults with more negative relationship processes are those who should be making greater sexual inquiries, but they are not. Instead, respondents who are in lower risk relationships in terms of sexual exclusivity and consistent condom use are those who more often make queries about prior sexual behavior and sexually transmitted infections. Consistent with our symbolic interactionist framework, we find that the indicators of intimacy, love and self-disclosure, are related to some indicators of management of sexual risk.
Love and self-disclosure are positively related to risk queries. Even though these relationship indicators are correlated and in some cases do mediate one another, they do not scale well as qualities and seem to be tapping unique dimensions of relationships. These analyses highlighted one way to characterize relationships, but future work can explore more nuanced approaches to understanding the qualities of relationships that are associated with less effective management of sexual risk.
We consider the package of sexual risk behaviors, rather than rely on single indicators i. Our approach helps to determine how risk behaviors may work together, and young adults may respond accordingly to manage sexual risk. The safest type of relationship is exclusive with consistent condom use. Yet about half of young adults manage their risk by using condoms inconsistently in relationships they perceive as sexually exclusive. About 1 in 12 young adults manage their risk when they are in nonexclusive relationships by consistently using condoms managed risk.
Young adults in relationships with less love and commitment and greater conflict are more often in managed sexual relationships than safe relationships. These young adults are also more likely to be in the most unsafe relationships with inconsistent condom use and sexual non-exclusivity. Thus, young adults who have the least positive relationship dynamics low intimate disclosure, low commitment and love, and higher conflict more often are in the unsafe rather than safe relationships. Our study contributes to the literature by including three measures of management of sexual risk and indicators of relationship qualities.
Nevertheless, the generalizability of these findings may be limited because this is a regional sample of young adults. In addition, while our analyses focus on dating relationships in early adulthood, we have reports from only one member of the couple. In this study, we limit analyses to respondents who are in dating relationships and do not assess sexual risk among young adults in casual sexual relationships. Finally, we are limited to cross-sectional analyses of the relationship at one-point in time.
This constraint limits our ability to assess causality, as our findings represent associations and cannot speak to the directionality of the findings. Our analyses combine men and women, and chow tests indicate that this is the appropriate methodological approach. We do find, however, that men and women differ in their levels of making risk inquiries and consistency of condom use. Women have higher odds of making sexual risk inquiries, but report lower levels of consistent condom use than men. In terms of our sexual risk management measure, females are as likely as males to be in both the most safe and unsafe sexual risk categories.
However, females are more often in seemingly safe relationships inconsistent condom use and sexually exclusive than men and less often in managed risk consistent condom use and sexually non-exclusive relationships. Thus, the role of gender is complex. Women certainly make more sexual risk queries and do seem to manage their risk differently than men.
However, our analyses did not support the notion that relationship dynamics themselves are more salient for understanding the risk patterns of women, as findings indicate that relationship characteristics have similar effects according to gender. Young adults today are facing more sexual relationships outside of marriage than have been experienced by prior generations Cohen and Manning This requires young adults to figure out how to manage the sexual risk that results from these relationships.
Our work represents a starting point for new research on sexual risk-taking by showcasing one way to capture the management of sexual risk. Future studies can develop alternative measures of sexual risk management that perhaps combine a wider array of behaviors and attitudes. In addition, prior research on the role of relationship features on sexual risk-taking often has relied on duration as a proxy for relationship qualities.
Even though duration is associated with relationship qualities, it is not a perfect proxy for the complex dynamics that occur within these intimate relationships. A basic premise of our research is that prevention programs will be more effective if relationship issues are a key, even central, component. We agree with Eyre et al. Further, our findings are consistent with Ayoola et al.
Additional work on how relationships in young adulthood can be conceptualized would further efforts to help young adults safely navigate their sexual relationships. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Popul Res Policy Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC Jun Manning , Peggy C. Giordano , Monica A.
Longmore , and Christine M. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. See other articles in PMC that cite the published article.
Abstract Young adult involvement in sexual behavior typically occurs within a relationship context, but we know little about the ways in which specific features of romantic relationships influence sexual decision-making. Relationships and Sexual Risk During early adulthood, in spite of much popular culture emphasis on hook-ups, dating relationships are the most common context for sexual activity Kusunoki and Upchurch Correlates of condom consistency Although shared communication is critical for risk management, two other behaviors are also critical for avoiding sexual risk: Demographic heterogamy The demographic measures of heterogamy age, race, and ethnicity have been studied and linked to inconsistent condom use, with much of the prior work emphasizing age heterogamy.
Relationship duration Many studies examine relationship duration and sometimes infer that duration is a proxy for closeness in the relationship. Subjective qualities While building on these studies, we focus attention on the subjective elements of relationships. Negative relationship qualities A comprehensive portrait of relationship-based dynamics also requires attention to negative relationship qualities.
Relationship Qualities Based on the results of factor analysis, we combine five measures of relationship quality into three indices.
Controls We include additional variables, most measured at wave 1, that serve as control variables in our multivariate models. Analytic Strategy We begin by describing the relationship qualities associated with management of sexual risk. Table 1 Variable Means and Percentages. Open in a separate window.
Sexual Risk Management Table 3 presents the risk management measure that represents a combination of sexual exclusivity and consistent condom use.
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