Gender differences in substance use and initiation of sexual activity


Even though widespread efforts have focused on educating young adults about HIV and AIDS, many individuals continue to engage in behaviors that place them at risk. These behaviors include frequent experimentation with alcohol and other drugs prior to sex, engaging in sexual activity with different partners, and inconsistent safe sex practices (Butcher et al. 1991). The combination of these risky behaviors causes increased concern about the spread of HIV among those of college age. This study focused on two behaviors by examining the relationship between substance use during adolescence and early initiation of sexual activity in a sample of 950 subjects aged 19–21 in a mid-sized southern city. Results indicate that early use of alcohol and marijuana relates to earlier initiation of sexual activity and subsequent risky sexual behavior among young adults. Also, gender differences were observed for frequent users of marijuana and alcohol with males engaging in riskier sexual practices. Recommendations for interventions are made.

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