The Impact of Delinquency on Young Adult Sexual Risk Behaviors and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Purpose: Youth in the juvenile justice system have increased sexual risk behavior and sexually transmitted infections (STI). However, research exploring the effect of self-reported delinquency on sexual risk behavior and STI is limited, and results vary depending on the populations studied. Therefore, we used nationally representative data to examine the longitudinal association between delinquent behavior, sexual risk behavior, and STI among adolescents and young adults. Methods: We used a sample of 10,828 participants from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent and Health. Outcomes included STI and sexual risk behavior from Wave III (17-27-year-olds). Predictors for the generalized linear regression models (stratified by gender) include race, age, education, relationship status at Wave III, and delinquent behavior groups (life-course persistent, adolescence-limited, late-onset and nondelinquency). Results: None of the delinquency groups were associated with young adult STI. Only life-course persistent delinquency was associated consistently with sexual risk behavior (except for condom use). The adolescence-limited and late-onset groups had limited effects on sexual risk outcomes. Conclusions: Life-course persistent delinquency influences the expression of young adult sexual risk behavior. However, delinquent behavior does not predict STI in a population-based sample of youth. Programs and interventions that address the sexual health of youth need to consider the role of delinquency in shaping sexual risk behaviors, and future research should explore broader societal and environmental risk factors on STIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


  • Adolescent sexuality
  • Delinquent behavior
  • Sexually transmitted disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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