246248 Examining linkages between family influences, impulsivity and early sexual initiation: Longitudinal evidence from a community-based sample of urban adolescents

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Atika Khurana, PhD , Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Dan Romer, PhD , Adolescent Health Communication Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg Public Policy Center, Philadelphia, PA
Hallam Hurt, MD , Divsion of Neonatology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Laura M. Betancourt, PhD , Divsion of Neonatology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Nancy L. Brodsky, PhD , Divsion of Neonatology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
The preponderance of risk-taking during adolescence, including early sexual initiation, is thought to be a manifestation of an underlying impulsive tendency of teenagers to seek novel and exciting experiences (Arnett, 1992), without evaluating the long-term consequences (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1977). Recent work by Moffitt et al. (2011) suggests that poor self-control, evidenced as early as age three, is linked to adverse health outcomes that continue into adulthood. Research suggests however that lack of self-control, or impulsivity, has multiple manifestations that are not highly correlated. The present analysis was conducted to understand the influence of impulsivity on early sexual initiation using two waves of data [N=355; Mean age (baseline)=13 yrs] from a longitudinal study of a community-based sample of urban adolescents. Structural equation modeling procedures were employed to assess the unique influence of three separate dimensions of impulsivity: acting-without-thinking (AWT), sensation-seeking (SS), and impatience (IMPT) in relation to early sexual debut at one-year follow-up. Fifteen percent of the sample reported having initiated vaginal intercourse at follow-up, compared to 8% at baseline. AWT (β=1.1, p<.05) and IMPT (β=-.26, p<.01), but not SS, were found to be significantly associated with sexual debut, even after accounting for familial (parental monitoring, involvement, and parent-adolescent relationship quality) and socio-demographic variables [TLI=0.93; RMSEA =.06]. Supplemental analyses revealed that these dimensions of impulsivity were associated with lower working memory scores [β(AWT)=-.20, p<.05; β(IMPT)=.25, p<.01), suggesting that early interventions to improve working memory (Klingberg et al., 2005) may help adolescents to avoid the risks attendant upon early sexual initiation.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Outlines evidence for different forms of impulsivity (sensation-seeking, acting without thinking, and impatience) that underlie lack of self-control in children. 2. Assesses the relative impact of these dimensions of adolescent impulsivity on early sexual initiation. 3. Discusses the relationship between family processes and the different dimensions of impulsivity. 4. Identifies the role of working memory as a component of adolescent impulsivity.

Keywords: Adolescents, Sexual Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have an extensive research background in the area of adolescent sexual risk behaviors as well as family and community influences on adolescent development and risky sexual involvement. I also have a strong foundation in bio-statistics and quantitative psychology, and have analyzed several longitudinal and national data sets associated with adolescent risk behaviors, including data associated with the present research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.