Relationship Commitment and Its Implications for Unprotected Sex Among Impoverished Women Living in Shelters and Low-Income Housing in Los Angeles County

by Joan S. Tucker, Marc N. Elliott, Suzanne L. Wenzel, Katrin Hambarsoomian

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Objective: To examine how relationship commitment among impoverished women is associated with their frequency of unprotected sex.

Design: Cross-sectional analyses were conducted on survey data from a probability sample of 445 women initially sampled from shelters and low-income housing in Los Angeles County.

Main Outcome Measure: Frequency of unprotected sex in a typical month was derived as the product of 2 items: how often the woman had sex with her partner in a typical month and how often a male condom was used.

Results: For both sheltered and housed women, relationship commitment predicted more frequent engagement in unprotected sex with their partner, even after controlling for the type of relationship (primary vs. casual). However, this association could not be accounted for by perceived partner monogamy, ability to refuse unwanted sex, perceived HIV susceptibility, and condom use self-efficacy. Among housed women only, never asking the partner to use a condom partially accounted for more frequent engagement in unprotected sex among women with stronger relationship commitment.

Conclusion: Results emphasize the importance of relationship commitment issues in HIV prevention interventions with impoverished women, and the need for a better understanding of relationship commitment and its influence on condom use in this population.

Reprinted with permission from Health Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 5, Sept. 2007, pp. 644-649. Copyright © 2007 American Psychological Association.

Originally published in: Health Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 5, Sept. 2007, pp. 644-649.

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