Generational Status and Social Factors Predicting Initiation of Partnered Sexual Activity Among Latino/a Youth

Published in: Health Psychology, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on December 09, 2016

by Patricia Cabral, Jan Wallander, Anna V. Song, Susan R. Tortolero, Marc N. Elliott, Sari L. Reisner, Mark A. Schuster

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Research Questions

  1. Among Latino/a youth, what are the associations between sexual intercourse initiation and generational status (i.e., being in the first, second, or third generation in the United States)?
  2. How do early parenting and peer influences relate to that timing?

OBJECTIVE: Examine the longitudinal association of generational status (first = child and parent born outside the United States; second = child born in the United States, parent born outside the United States; third = child and parent born in the United States) and parent and peer social factors considered in 5th grade with subsequent oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse initiation by 7th and 10th grade among Latino/a youth. METHOD: Using data from Latino/a participants (N = 1,790) in the Healthy Passages™ study, the authors measured generational status (first = 18.4%, second = 57.3%, third-generation = 24.3%) and parental (i.e., monitoring, involvement, nurturance) and peer (i.e., friendship quality, social interaction, peer norms) influences in 5th grade and oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse initiation by 7th and 10th (retention = 89%) grade. RESULTS: Among girls, parental monitoring, social interaction, friendship quality, and peer norms predicted sexual initiation. Among boys, parental involvement, social interaction, and peer norms predicted sexual initiation (ps < .05). When ≥1 friend was perceived to have initiated sexual intercourse, third-generation Latinas were more than twice as likely as first- and second-generation Latinas (ps < .05) to initiate vaginal intercourse by 10th grade and almost 5 times as likely as first-generation Latinas to initiate oral intercourse by 7th grade. CONCLUSIONS: Among Latina youth, generational status play a role in social influences on vaginal and oral intercourse initiation. Moreover, Latinas and Latinos differ in which social influences predict sexual intercourse initiation. Preventive efforts for Latino/a youth may need to differ by gender and generational status.

Key Findings

  • Parental monitoring (control, supervision) was associated with girls' initiation of vaginal intercourse by 7th grade, but parental involvement (in activities and communication of life issues) was associated with boys' initiation of oral intercourse by 10th grade.
  • Peer influences and norms were associated with both boys' and girls' initiation of sexual intercourse across all generational status groups.
  • Timing of sexual intercourse initiation was most strongly related to peer norms and neighborhood social interaction among third-generation Latina girls.
  • Oral intercourse initiation by 7th grade may have served as a "gateway" to vaginal intercourse by 10th grade among third-generation Latina girls.

Recommendations

  • Efforts to delay initiation of sexual activity should address peer norms among close friends as well as positive parental relationships.
  • Adolescents often think of nonvaginal intercourse as "not counting" as sexual initiation, therefore sex education efforts should include the range of sexual activities and the risks they entail.

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