School social structure and adolescent concurrent heterosexual partnerships


Dr. Jodi Ford (Nearns), College of Nursing
Rank at the time of award: Assistant Professor
Dr. Christopher Browning, Department of Sociology

Rank at the time of award: Associate Professor
Dr. Elizabeth Cooksey, Department of Sociology
Rank at the time of award: Associate Professor



Although previous research has contributed substantially to our understanding of concurrent sexual partnerships, limitations exist. Specifically, most studies have focused on individual levels of analysis with few exploring how the broader social structure and social context may contribute to sexual-risk behaviors, such as concurrent sexual partnerships. (Adimora & Schoenbach 2005; Aral, Padian, Holmes 2005). In order to develop more effective public health programs targeting concurrent sexual partnerships, STIs and HIV, studies that examine the influence of multiple contexts on these outcomes are vital. In addition, research needs to consider how structural and social factors may contribute to concurrent sexual partnerships for populations at different stages in the life course. Current theory has focused more on adults, such as how structural poverty and high incarceration rates among African American men may deter marriage and/or serial monogamy. (Adimora, Schoenbach, Martinson et al. 2006)  Although this is important to examine, the structural and social contexts that influence adolescent concurrent heterosexual relationships may be very different than that experienced by adults. For adolescents, schools provide an opportunity for social interaction and the development of social relationships, (Caspi 1995) including sexual relationships (Bearman, Moody & Stovel 2004)  However, multilevel research on the impact of school social structure and social processes on adolescent sexual behavior is limited (Kirby 2002) and to date, no studies have examined the role of schools in adolescent concurrent sexual partnering. Research in this area is urgently needed as recent evidence has revealed increasing STI rates among adolescents, and pervasive racial disparities (CDC 2008 Natl STD Conference)

Specific Aims: The specific aims of this pilot project are to examine: (1) the associations between school social structure and adolescent concurrent heterosexual partnerships and (2) the moderating role of the school social structure on the relationship between adolescent race/ethnicity and adolescents' concurrent heterosexual partnerships. This study is guided by social network, social stratification and social disorganization theories and builds upon research currently underway that examines individual factors associated with adolescent concurrent heterosexual partnerships.


Publications resulting from this seed grant  

2013. Ford, J.L. & Browning, C.R. Neighborhoods and infectious disease risk: Acquisition of chlamydia during the transition to young adulthood. Journal of Urban Health. PMCID:PMC3907631

2012. Ford JL, Rechel M. Parental perceptions of the neighborhood context and adolescent depression. Public Health Nursing, 29 (5):390-402. PMID: 22924562

2011. Ford, J.L., Browning, C.R. Neighborhood social disorganization and the acquisition of trichomoniasis among young adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 101, 1696-1703. PMCID: PMC3154224