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Explaining Race and Gender Differences in Adolescent Sexual Behavior

Janet L. Lauritsen
Social Forces
Vol. 72, No. 3 (Mar., 1994), pp. 859-883
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2579784
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2579784
Page Count: 25
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Explaining Race and Gender Differences in Adolescent Sexual Behavior
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Abstract

Research presented here tests hypotheses derived from social control (Hirschi 1969) and strain (Merton 1938, 1957) theories to explain patterns of sexual activity among race- and gender-specific subgroups of adolescents. Using longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents aged 11 to 17, several significant findings emerge. Family structure and neighborhood characteristics are found to account for race differences in the sexual activity of females, but not of males. However, race-specific analyses indicate that different factors are relevant for explaining within-group differences. In general, social control variables (e.g., attachment to family, educational aspirations) are found to be significant predictors of sexual activity among white youth while strain variables (e.g., perceived inability to achieve educational goals) account for variation in the sexual behavior of black females. The sexual activity of black male youth was not explained by either social control or strain factors.

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