Risk estimation and sexual behaviour. A longitudinal study of 16-21-year-olds

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Abstract

The relationships among risk estimation, impulsivity and patterns of sexual risk-taking in 16-21-year-olds are examined. A sample of 236 males and 340 females completed a postal questionnaire on three occasions at annual intervals. They reported their assessment of their own risk of HIV infection, the risk of HIV infection associated with six types of sexual activity, their likelihood of engaging in each of these activities, and whether they had participated in these activities between the first and second data collections. Impulsivity was indexed using a standard test. The data support the conclusion that strong social representations of sexual risks exist which do not markedly change during late adolescence. These risk estimates predict behavioural expectations, primarily for the riskiest behaviours, and for females (actual participation in vaginal sex); but for males, risk estimates fail to predict behaviour. Evidence here for a rational model of individual decision-making in relation to sexual risk-taking is sparse. Impulsivity was not a good predictor of expected or actual patterns of sexual behaviour, though higher impulsivity was associated with having more sexual partners and, in females, with starting to have sex younger.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-91
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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