Background Studies have found that concurrent sexual partnerships, as opposed to cumulative number of sex partners or serially monogamous partnerships play a pivotal role in rates of STI transmission. Different patterns of concurrency have different consequences to STI transmission as these patterns result in diverse network structures from within which to disseminate disease. Our objective was to determine the prevalence and types of concurrent partnerships within a prospective cohort of urban adolescent females.
Methods A cohort of adolescent females (N=63), aged 16–19 at baseline, were recruited from health clinics and community venues in Baltimore, MD and completed daily diaries about each current sex partner on a Palm Smartphone continuously for up to 18 months. As data collection is ongoing, relationships that were at least 8 weeks long were selected for this analysis. Partner names were confirmed by participants at regular intervals to ensure the same partner was followed over time. Sex partners were considered concurrent if they were named by the participant in the same week. Concurrent partners were categorised as either embedded or transitional relative to each relationship. A side partner was categorised as embedded if the week(s) that partner was named were completely contained within the weeks of the relationship. A side partner was categorised as transitional if weeks that the partner was named either preceded or persisted beyond the relationship or if the partner was only named in a single week within the first or last 4 weeks of the relationship.
Results Fifty-five participants had a relationship of at least 8 weeks duration, of these 55 relationships 28 (51%) had a concurrent partner within the relationship, with a mean (SD) of 2.7 (2.6) concurrent partners. Of the 28 relationships that contained concurrency, transitional concurrency was most prevalent (43%), followed by both transitional and embedded (39%), and embedded only (18%). Among relationships with concurrency, 25% had a gap of >4 weeks within the relationship, as a result partners initially classified as transitional subsequently became embedded. There was no difference in relationship duration for those with and without concurrency.
Conclusions Transitional concurrency may reflect adolescents' intentions of serial monogamy. Future data collection is needed to gain an improved understanding of adolescents' motivations for concurrent sexual partnerships.
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