Background: Partner’s concurrency has been shown to be an important risk factor for STI acquisition. It is not understood whether choosing a concurrent partner is an individual characteristic, whereby some females consistently have main partners who they believe have other sex partners, or it is a relationship characteristic independent of the female.
Objectives: To examine whether perceiving a previous sex partner to be concurrent predicts perceiving a future sex partner to be concurrent and whether length of relationship (LOR) is associated with perceived partner concurrency (PPC).
Methods: A prospective cohort of 298 adolescent girls, aged 14 – 19 at baseline, were recruited from an adolescent health clinic or an STD clinic in Baltimore, MD and interviewed semi-annually for 3 years. At each interview, participants reported on whether they perceived their current main sex partner to have had other sex partners during their relationship. Participants were asked how long have you been together. Each sex partner was only included once; data from the most recent interview was used. Random effects logistic regression models were used to conduct subject-specific analyses on repeated measures.
Results: Females were 3.31 times more likely to perceive their main partner was concurrent (95% CI: 2.28, 4.82) if they perceived their previous main partner was concurrent. LOR was associated with PPC where females were 3% more likely to PPC for every month in the relationship (95%CI: 2-4%). Age was not associated with PPC. LOR was significantly shorter for relationships with no PPC vs. those with PPC (29 vs. 16 months, p<0.001).
Conclusions: Past PPC predicted future PPC; however, longer relationships were more likely to be concurrent.
Implications for Programs, Policy, and/or Research: Future research should examine adolescent relationships over time; it may be that longer length relationships are in fact a combination of short serial relationships with one partner interrupted by a relationship with another partner.