The role of social anxiety in the sexual involvement of ethnically diverse adolescents with chronic medical conditions

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Annette M. La Greca - Committee Chair


Early sexual involvement has been a continued concern in the United States. The present study examined factors related to sexual intercourse in a population of low-income, ethnically diverse adolescents with chronic medical conditions. The primary goals included: (a) assessing whether adolescent social anxiety moderates the relationship between friend sexual intercourse and adolescent sexual intercourse and (b) evaluating whether adolescent social anxiety moderates the relationship between adolescent dating and adolescent sexual intercourse. Secondary goals involved examining relationships between age at diagnosis and other risky behaviors with sexual intercourse. Seventy-one 15--20 year-old adolescents with a variety of chronic medical conditions completed the Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents, Friends' Risk-Taking Behavior Questionnaire, Dating Questionnaire, selected questions from the Reproductive Health History Questionnaire, and some demographic information. Age differences were observed for rates of sexual intercourse. Fifteen to seventeen year-olds were less likely to have had sexual intercourse than 18--20 year-olds. Therefore, all hypotheses were analyzed by separately age group. For 15--17 year-olds, it was observed that for adolescents with higher social anxiety, friend sexual intercourse was related to adolescent sexual intercourse. No association was found for adolescents with lower social anxiety. Additionally, analyses revealed that adolescents who had dated recently were more likely to have had sexual intercourse. For 18--20 year-olds, it was shown that friend sexual intercourse and adolescent dating mediated the relationship between adolescent social anxiety and adolescent sexual intercourse.Adolescents with higher social anxiety were less likely to date and less likely to have friends who had had sex; in turn, less dating and fewer friends who had had sex were associated with lower rates of sexual intercourse. With respect to secondary analyses, no significant association was found between age at diagnosis and sexual intercourse. Regarding the associations with other risky behaviors, prevalence rites in the current sample were low and few relationships were observed with sexual intercourse. Overall, the current study highlights the differing impact of social anxiety on sexual intercourse by age and provides information for health care professionals concerning "at risk" assessment of sexual activity. Clinical implications of the findings are discussed.


Psychology, Social; Health Sciences, Public Health; Psychology, Clinical

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