Young people aged 15-24 comprise 27% of sexually active individuals, yet account for approximately half of new STDs. Because condom use is an effective way to prevent STD transmission, it is important to understand factors that influence sex without condoms (i.e., unprotected sex), including the roles of childhood sexual abuse (CSA), psychological distress, alcohol use, and current sexual practices.
Methods: Using data from a study of female bar drinkers (N = 286; 76.6% Caucasian; mean age 22.1), we examined two separate hierarchical multiple regression models predicting unprotected sex based on partner type (new, regular). Ethnicity and CSA were entered at step 1, psychological distress (Global Severity Index of the Brief Symptom Inventory) was entered at step 2, alcohol (usual number of drinks at a bar) was entered at step 3, and sexual practices (oral contraceptive use, past-year one night stands, current sexual relationship) were entered at step 4.
In the model predicting unprotected sex with new partners, CSA, one night stands, and not being in a current sexual relationship were significantly associated with unprotected sex. The final model accounted for 28% of the variance in unprotected sex with new partners [F (7, 278)=15.43, p<.001.] In the model predicting unprotected sex with regular partners, psychological distress, oral contraceptive use, and current sexual relationship were significantly associated with unprotected sex. The final model accounted for 33% of the variance in unprotected sex with regular partners [F (7, 278)=5.00, p<.001.]
STD prevention strategies for young women should consider partner type. Prevention efforts may be more effective to the extent that they specifically address CSA history and increase perceptions of sexual risk associated with new or casual partners. Programs also should address psychological distress and emphasize the benefits of condom use for both pregnancy and STD prevention with regular partners.