The Role of Attachment Style on Adolescent Risky Sexual Behavior
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Insecure attachment in adolescents is often linked to risky sexual behavior (i.e. behavior that increases one’s chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections or experiencing unintended pregnancies; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010). The current study examines associations between anxious and avoidant attachment styles and risky sexual behavior, while also examining gender as a moderator. We hypothesized that in adolescents, attachment anxiety would predict riskier sexual behavior, and this effect would be stronger in girls than boys. We also hypothesized that an avoidant attachment style would predict less risky sexual behavior, and this effect would be stronger for girls than boys. Participants (N = 277) were from year 5 of an ongoing longitudinal study (Evans et al., 2018). Participants were 12-17 years old and 44.7% female, 55.3% male, 49.3% Caucasian, 50.7% non-Caucasian. Results suggest the importance of attachment style in predicting adolescents’ risky sexual behavior. Avoidant individuals were found to engage in a significant amount of sexual risk-taking (β = .206, p = .014), and this effect was marginally stronger for girls (β= .337 p = .003). Anxious individuals were found to engage in little sexual risk-taking (β = -.287, p =.001). Both main effects were the opposite of what we hypothesized. These findings shed light on adolescents who are at a higher risk for participating in risky sexual behaviors and have implications for attachment interventions.