Document Type


Date of Original Version



Human Development and Family Studies


Introduction: Although sexual exploration during adolescence may be perceived as normative, many adolescents who are sexually active are likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors detrimental to their well-being. The present study examined the influence of insecure attachment (anxious and avoidant dimensions), healthy sex attitudes, and constraining relationship beliefs on the following sexual risk indicators: age at first sex, number of sexual partners, condom use, length of time knowing sexual partners, seriousness of relationship, and frequency of sex.

Methods: Cross-sectional data from two cohorts recruited one year apart for a five-year project were analyzed. Adolescents were public high school students from a Southern state in the USA (cohort 1: N = 878, 51.1% females, M = 16.50 years old; cohort 2: N = 759, 46.9% females, M = 15.78 years old).

Results: Across both cohorts, healthy sex attitudes were related to having sex for the first time at an older age, having less sexual partners in a lifetime, and knowing one’s sexual partner longer. High scores on the avoidant attachment dimension were related to less commitment to the relationship. This dimension also was related to holding lower scores on healthy sex attitudes, which in turn was related to having more sexual partners and knowing one’s sexual partner for a shorter time. Although not replicated, higher endorsement of constraining relationship beliefs was associated with inconsistent condom use and greater sex frequency.

Conclusion: Findings suggests that attachment insecurity, healthy sex attitudes, and constraining relationship beliefs work together to influence adolescent sexual risks.