Correlates of sexual experience among a nationally representative sample of alternative high school students

Lydia A Shrier, Richard Crosby
Journal of School Health 2003, 73 (5): 197-200
Little is known about risk and protective factors associated with sexual experience among alternative school students that might prove useful in targeting and guiding early interventions to prevent onset of sexual risk behavior. Researchers analyzed data from the national Alternative High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Principal components analysis identified six risk and protective factors: weapon carrying; tobacco use; cocaine, inhalant, and needle use; alcohol and marijuana use; participation in sports; and fighting. Composite variables with significant bivariate relationships to sexual experience, as well as demographic variables, were entered into a logistic regression analysis to determine independent effects of these correlates on students' sexual experience (N = 6.037). Nearly 90% of students reported having sexual intercourse. In multivariate analysis, significant demographic correlates of sexual experience included female gender (58% more likely than males to report ever having sex), African American race (2.83 times more likely than non-Hispanic Whites), and age (28% more likely with each advancing year). Attending school in a rural or suburban region corresponded to a 31% decrease and 46% decrease, respectively, in the odds of ever having sex. Weapon carrying, and cocaine, inhalant, and needle use, were associated with a 35% and 46% increase, respectively, in the odds of ever having sex. Students reporting they had ever used alcohol or marijuana, and those reporting recent fighting behavior, were 2.7 and 1.6 times more likely, respectively, to report sexual experience. Most alternative school students have had sexual intercourse, with those students engaging in substance use, weapon carrying, and fighting behaviors being at greater risk for sexual experience. Prevention programs for high-risk youth attending alternative high schools need to consider how to promote continued abstinence among the small but important minority of alternative school students not yet sexually experienced.

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