Sexual Behavior Trajectories from Adolescence to Adulthood

Patterns of sexual and romantic behavior have changed significantly over the past half century. Sexual transition occurs earlier and outside of marriage, the lifetime numbers of sexual partners have increased, and entry into marriage occurs later or not all. These behavioral and attitudinal changes have occurred in a context in which other developmental transitions and traditional sociological markers of adulthood are delayed. Embedded in these dramatic population changes are conflicting beliefs about optimal pathways to healthy sexuality and quality of life. There is little prospective documentation of sexual trajectories from adolescence into adulthood or information about the enduring developmental and health implications, if any, of different sexual and romantic pathways. Using data from Waves I - IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), this project does the following: 1) Examines trajectories defined by timing, emergence of sexual acts, and temporal spacing; partner accumulation, frequency of activity and risk-taking; and changes in indicators of sexual orientation over time; and determines whether trajectories vary by biological sex, race/ethnicity, or physical disability. 2) Tests hypotheses derived from Life Course and other developmental theory about how the interactions of biological characteristics, psychological factors, and life experiences sustain or change sexual and romantic trajectories across the life course. 3) Identifies concurrent and later health correlates of trajectories, and where associations exist, test hypotheses about mediating mechanisms. Identifying trajectories of experience and their health implications for persons embedded in different cultural contexts will enrich developmental theory about diverse forms of positive development, and will provide empirical evidence based on representative samples to guide the development of public health policy and programs.

Principal Investigator: Carolyn Tucker Halpern

CPC Fellow Investigators: Amy H. Herring , Chirayath M. Suchindran

Other Investigators: Denise Hallfors (Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation)

Funding Source: NIH NICHD

Grant Number: R01HD057046

Funding Period: 3/1/2010 - 2/29/2016

Primary Research Area: Demography,Reproductive Health

Affiliated Research Project:

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