SSIREP Research Workshop: Hans Saint-Eloi Cadely (Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Studies)

Discussant: Christine Zozula (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology)


Despite decreases in the prevalence of adolescent engagement in sexual intercourse during the past decade, recent reports indicated that approximately 40% of adolescents have had sex at some point in their lifetime (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Such adolescents are likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors ranging from frequent sexual activity, less condom use during intercourse, having numerous sexual partners in their lifetime, beginning to have sex at a young age, and having sex only after getting to know one’s partner for a short period of time (Feeney, Peterson, Gallois, & Terry, 2000; McElwain, Kerpelman, & Pittman, 2015; Tracy, Shaver, Albino, & Cooper, 2003). Thus, the aim of this paper is to further understand what factors can exacerbate adolescents’ engagement in risky sexual activities.

    • Two studies are currently under completion in order to address this phenomenon. Study 1 examines whether adolescents’ attitudes and beliefs regarding relationships and sex are related to their engagement in risky sexual behaviors. Adolescents’ perceptions on relationships and sex are examined based on their reports of discomfort with intimacy, dependency on the relationship, healthy sex attitudes (e.g., “It is risky for young teens to have sex”), and faulty relationship beliefs (e.g., “There is a “one and only” right person in the world for me to marry”). Analyses are being conducted across two separate cohorts of adolescents from a Southern state between the ages of 13-20 years old (Cohort 1: M = 16.51; SD = 1.06, Cohort 2: M = 15.77; SD = .96). Results indicate that high levels of discomfort with intimacy are related to having sex before being committed to one’s partner, knowing one’s partner for a brief period of time before having sex, and consistent use of a condom during intercourse. High scores on dependency on the relationship are related to less condom use during intercourse. High scores on healthy sex attitudes are related to high scores in getting to know one’s partner before having sex, beginning to have sex at an older age, fewer number of sexual partners in a lifetime, and less frequency of sex. Furthermore, faulty relationship beliefs are related to a higher frequency of sex and to being more committed to one’s partner before having sex.
    • Study 2 examines whether the associations noted above vary for adolescents who are involved in a long-term relationship versus adolescents who are not dating but are sexually active. Analyses for Study 2 are currently under way.