Latino Adolescent Sexual Behavior: Do Contextual Effects Contribute to Ethnic Group Differences?
Barrett, Courtenay Anna
Gottfredson, Gary D.
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Latino youths are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections or becoming pregnant during adolescence than their non-Latino peers. Research has focused mainly on individual sociopsychological predictors of adolescent sexual behavior or on contextual effects of neighborhoods. The present study investigates potential contributions of school effects to the explanation of ethnic group differences in sexual behavior. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) are examined to answer the following questions: (a) Are Latino adolescents concentrated in areas where there is a more sexually permissive school culture? (b) Are sexually permissive school cultures positively related to sexual initiation? (c) To what extent do school characteristics or sexual norms moderate the relationship between Latino self-identification and motivations to engage in sex through a person-environment interaction? (d) To what extent do school characteristics or sexual norms moderate the relationship between Latino self-identification and sexual initiation through a person-environment interaction? Results suggest that Latinos are not concentrated in areas with a more permissive sexual culture and that the higher the proportion of Latinos in the school, the lower the proportion of students having had sex. Latino ethnicity is not related to motivations to engage in sex, but is positively related to sexual initiation. This positive relationship is attenuated in schools where there is a sexually permissive school culture. Across ethnicities, sexually permissive school cultures increase sexual initiation.