More Than the Sum of their Parts: a Dyad-Centered Approach to Understanding Adolescent Sexual Behavior

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18 Scopus citations


Introduction: Research has documented multiple levels of influences on adolescent sexual behavior but has generally focused less on the relational nature of this behavior. Studies with dyadic data have provided important findings on relationship process, including the role of gender in different-sex dyads. However, both of these bodies of literature typically utilize a variable-centered approach, which examines average influences of particular variables on sexual behavior. This study expands upon this research by presenting a dyad-centered approach to adolescent sexual behavior that can identify types of couples based on patterns of multidimensional risk and protective factors. Methods: I demonstrate the dyad-centered approach using data from different-sex dyads in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to uncover profiles marked by individual, parent, peer, and religion predictors for both male and female partners. Results: Analyses uncovered five classes of dyadic influences, four of which were marked by relative similarity between partners and one marked by lesser approval of sex for women compared with men. Dyads marked by both partners intending to have sex and being in a context that is more approving of sex were more likely to engage in sexual intercourse. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate the heterogeneity of influences and intentions to have sex among adolescent couples and identify profiles of dyads that are more likely to engage in sexual intercourse. This approach can explicate dyadic processes involved in sexual behavior and the types of couples that exist in a population, leading to more tailored and efficacious interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-118
Number of pages14
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Adolescent sexual behavior
  • Dyadic data
  • Latent class analysis
  • Predictors of sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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