Background: This study explored the relationship between social and organizational characteristics of neighborhoods including social cohesion and informal social control and a current bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) among adolescents and young adults in one U.S. urban setting.
Methods: Data for the current study were collected from April 2004 to April 2007 in a cross-sectional household study. The target population included English-speaking, sexually-active persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years who resided in 486 neighborhoods. The study sample included 599 participants from 63 neighborhoods.
Results: In a series of weighted multilevel logistic regression models stratified by gender, informal social control was significantly associated with a decreased odds of a current bacterial STI among females (AOR 0.39, 95% CI 0.26, 0.59) after controlling for individual social support and other factors. The association while in a similar direction was not significant for males (AOR 0.78, 95% CI 0.37, 1.63). Social cohesion was not significantly associated with a current bacterial STI among females (OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.26, 2.07) and separately, males (OR 0.73, 95% CI 0.26, 2.07). Individual social support was associated with an almost four-fold increase in the odds of a bacterial STI among males (AOR 3.78, 95% CI 1.85, 7.71) after controlling for social cohesion and other individual and neighborhood factors, a finding which is in contrast to our hypotheses.
Conclusions: The findings warrant further study regarding the causal relationship between informal social control and STIs among U.S. urban youth.