Sexual risk behaviors among African American young women in New Orleans
Emerging adults are at higher risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) than any other age group and women of color experience IPV at higher rates than white women. African American female adolescents who have experienced IPV are more likely to exhibit unhealthy sexual behaviors than their peers who have not experienced IPV, such as inconsistent condom use. Most unintended pregnancies among adolescents occur when contraception is used inconsistently. There is a small but growing body of literature on the health of African American college students. Students attending HBCUs engage in less risky behaviors than white college students yet experience a heavier burden of sexual consequences. Study participants were surveyed as part of an online pregnancy prevention intervention evaluation. All participants were African American females ages 18–19 living in the New Orleans area. The Theory of Gender and Power was used to examine exposures and risk factors of sexual risk behaviors. The prevalence of psychological aggression victimization was 52% at baseline. There were significant relationships between psychological aggression and being in a steady relationship or experiencing depression. The prevalence of consistent contraception use was 54% and of consistent condom use was 58%. There was a significant relationship between inconsistent condom use and psychological aggression victimization occurring two or more times. There was no significant relationship between consistent contraception use and psychological aggression; there were significant relationships for sometimes using alcohol or drugs before sexual activity and depression. The prevalence of consistent contraception use among HBCU students was 62%. There was a significant relationship between consistent contraception use and the education level of female students’ mothers. Healthy relationship-skill building is essential for young men and women. Additionally, first-generation college students at HBCUs need sexual health programming. Comprehensive interventions and wrap-around services are needed to improve the sexual health of late adolescents.