July 14, 2024

Older opposite-sex romantic partners, sexual risk, and victimization in adolescence

Abstract: "This study examined how age gaps among opposite-sex romantic partners related to sexual risk-taking and victimization by partners among 201 at-risk adolescents (60.2% female). We examined three questions: (a) is younger partner age, age gap between partners, or a combination of these two factors most strongly related to negative outcomes; (b) do age gaps relate to negative outcomes differently for male versus female adolescents; and (c) why do age gaps relate to negative outcomes? Results revealed that the wider the age gap between partners, the more likely adolescents were to engage in sex and the less likely they were to use protection against pregnancy and STIs. Wider age gaps were also associated with more frequent emotional and physical victimization and higher odds of unwanted sexual behavior. Findings did not differ significantly by gender or younger partner age. Analyses revealed that the wider the age gap, the more likely both partners were to engage in risky lifestyles (i.e., substance use and delinquency), and risky lifestyles - rather than poor negotiation or decision-making equality - helped to explain associations between age gaps and engagement in sexual intercourse and victimization experiences. Results suggest that relationships with age gaps tend to involve two partners who are engaging in deviant lifestyles overall, further corroborating the need to identify and provide services to these youth. Results also support movements toward considering partner age gaps rather than relying on a set age of consent when determining adolescents' legal competency to consent to sex."
Barbara A. Oudekerk
Lucy A. Guarnera
N. Dickon Reppucci
Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 38, No. 7
Date Added November 16, 2016
Date Modifed October 17, 2017
Collection UVA scholarship on sexual violence, 1974-

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