Danyka Therriault, Jean‐Pascal Lemelin, Jean Toupin, Alexa Martin‐Storey, Michèle Déry

Associations between externalizing behavior problems and risky sexual behaviors in adolescence: Attachment as a mediator

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology and Child Health

AbstractIntroductionRisky sexual behaviors in adolescence are associated with negative health and psychological functioning outcomes. Although the association between behavior problems and risky sexual behaviors is well established, addressing these problems requires understanding the mechanisms that help explain this association. Adolescent attachment, while related to risky sexual behavior, has not been extensively explored as an outcome of childhood externalizing problems. The two objectives of this study were to explore the links between parental and peer attachment and risky sexual behaviors and to examine the mediating effect of attachment on the links between behavior problems and risky sexual behaviors.MethodsFive hundred and ninety‐eight French‐Canadian adolescents (46.2% girls), Mage at T1 = 13.23; Mage at T2 = 14.28; Mage at T3 = 17.35) participated in this longitudinal study.ResultsThe quality of parental attachment at T2 was significantly and negatively associated with risky sexual behaviors 3 years later, at T3. More specifically, a lower quality parental attachment relationship was associated with having nonexclusive partners as well as with inconsistent condom use. Finally, parental attachment (T2) was a significant mediator between behavior problems (T1) and risky sexual behaviors (T3), but only for younger adolescents.ConclusionsFindings suggest that in addition to behavior problems in adolescence, the quality of parental attachment relationships may help in understanding risky sexual behaviors in adolescence.

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