Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Criminal Justice

Content Description

1 online resource (xi, 179 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Alan J. Lizotte

Committee Members

Marvin D. Krohn, Terence P. Thornberry, David McDowall, Robert J. Apel


Intimate Partner Relationships, Life Course Theory, Risky Sexual Behavior, Young adults, Teenagers, Unsafe sex, Sexually transmitted diseases, Risk-taking (Psychology), Interpersonal relations

Subject Categories



This dissertation uses data from the Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS) to examine the causes and consequences of risky sexual behavior from adolescence through young adulthood using a developmental perspective. Developmental theories suggest that antisocial behavior, especially persistent antisocial behavior, during adolescence can amplify the effects of early family, school, and peer factors by setting in motion a chain of cumulative disadvantages that increase the likelihood that one will experience negative outcomes in adulthood. Drawing on developmental theories of antisocial behavior, the causes and consequences of risky sexual behavior are examined. First, wave-specific measures of risky sexual behavior spanning six waves, when subjects are on average ages 16.5 to 22, are created using a graded response model (GRM). Essentially, the GRM combines individual items measuring risky sexual behavior at each wave into a standardized risky sexual behavior composite score that then can be used as a dependent and an independent variable. Subsequently, a long-term measure of risky sexual behavior is created by taking the average of the wave-specific risky sexual behavior scores from ages 16.5 to 22 from the GRM. The analyses then proceed in two stages. In the first stage, the average risky sexual behavior score is predicted from a variety of family, individual, and peer factors identified as important in the literature. In the second stage, the consequences that risky sexual behavior has on the development and quality of intimate partner relationships in young and later adulthood are examined. The first set of analyses found strong support for the proposed theoretical model. Experiencing negative family factors when subjects are on average 14.5 predicts lower academic achievement, associating with peers who use drugs, and more substance use about a year and a half later. Family factors also are associated with initiating sexual activity at an early age. In turn, these family, individual, and peer variables predict greater involvement in general crime and substance use when subjects are on average 16.5 to 22 years old. These factors cumulate to predict higher levels of risky sexual behavior when subjects are 16.5 to 22 years old. The second set of analyses found partial support for the theoretical model. Engaging in higher levels of risky sexual behavior over the adolescent-young adult life course was associated with a lower, rather than a higher, odds of being single at ages 23 and 29. Risky sexual behavior was not significantly associated with other partner outcomes at age 23, likely because of a lack of statistical power. Few subjects reported being married or cohabiting at this age. Risky sexual behavior was directly associated with cohabiting at age 29 and indirectly associated with partner support and partner satisfaction, as hypothesized. Subjects who engage in higher levels of risky sexual behavior from ages 16.5 to 22 also are more likely to cohabit rather than marry a partner in their late 20s. In turn, subjects who cohabit feel their partners are less supportive and are less satisfied with their relationships. This finding has important implications, since entering into a stable marriage serves to reduce involvement in criminal behavior. Avenues for intervention to aid in fostering adult social bonds and for future research to clarify the nature of these relationships are discussed.

Included in

Criminology Commons