Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychology


Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Lyn Stein


Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adolescents are on the rise (CDCP, 2011). The majority of adolescents who contract STIs do so through risky sexual behavior (Alleyne-Green et al., 2012). Previous literature has identified multiple correlates of risky sexual behaviors among adolescents, including physical and sexual victimization, mental health concerns, and substance use. Few studies, however, have examined these relationships together in a comprehensive model. The primary purpose of this study was to examine whether relationship violence was related to risky sexual behavior, and whether mental health symptoms and substance mediated this hypothesized relationship. Cross-sectional design was used, and adolescent females (N=179), recruited from social service agencies, were 18.9 years old on average and were 37.2% White, 19.3% Black, 37.9% Multiracial and 5.6% other. Regression results revealed that females who were physically assaulted and sexually victimized by their intimate partners did engage in more sex without condoms. Mediational analyses indicated that PTSD symptoms significantly influenced the relationship between 1) physical assault and risky sexual behavior and 2) sexual victimization and risky sexual behavior. Converse to expectations, PTSD may act to reduce risk perhaps by reducing interest in sex. It is important to address victimization, PTSD and sexual risk in young women. More work is needed to understand these complex relationships using longitudinal designs. This study importantly assists in model-building efforts.



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