Background Identifying the sexual risk behaviour associated with relationship status informs researchers and clinicians concerning female adolescent conceptualisation of partnerships in the context of risk recognition, sexual boundaries, and social expectations of relationships. This study describes risk behaviour of high-risk ethnic minority female adolescents with STI and abuse histories reporting either dating one person exclusively, not currently being in relationship, or dating more than one person.
Methods African-and Mexican-American adolescent women aged 13–18 years (n=559) were enrolled in a randomised trial of a behavioural intervention. At study entry, participants completed semi-structured interviews including questions addressing primary outcomes including STI infection, abuse recurrence, unintended pregnancy, sexual behaviour, substance use, and contraceptive use. Descriptive, χ2 analyses, and t-tests for bivariate analysis of differences between groups by relationship status at study entry were conducted.
Results Participants (59%) reported dating one person exclusively, not currently involved with a partner (29.2%), and dating more than one person (4.3%). Participants not currently in a relationship vs those who were with one partner exclusively described more often a most recent partner who would physically harm them if she had sex with another man χ2 (1, N=527) =4.51, p=0.034; having more guy friends they just have sex with χ2 (1, N=531) =7.74, p<0.005; and not having a steady relationship with their most recent partner χ2 (1, N=529) =174.86, p<0.0001. Of participants not currently in relationship, (30.7%) reported they would still have sex with their most recent partner yet 95% stated they currently do not have a monogamous relationship with this partner.
Conclusions Female adolescents with abuse histories who describe relationship status as not involved or involved with more than one partner engage in more risk behaviour than those who report exclusive relationships with one partner. Explicating behaviour that occurs by relationship status has implications for interpreting and addressing risk for intervention and practice guidelines.
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