Risk and Protective Factors Associated With Lifetime Sexual Experience Among Rural, Reservation-Based American Indian Youth

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Early sexual initiation is a catalyst for sexually transmitted infection and unintended pregnancy. American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth initiate sex prior to age 13 more often than other U.S. youth, contributing to current inequalities in sexual health. Identifying what factors were associated with lifetime sexual experience among AI/AN youth can inform the development of primary prevention programming to delay sexual initiation, alleviate the costs of early sexual activity, and improve sexual health outcomes in this population. We analyzed cross-sectional data from 267 AI youth ages 13–19, recruited from a rural, reservation-based community. We used multivariate logistic regression models to estimate associations between independent variables and lifetime sexual experience (vaginal and/or anal sex) across the following categories: sociodemographic, knowledge, attitudes/perceptions, beliefs, intentions, skills, behaviors, and theoretical constructs. The sample was 56.2% female, mean age 15.1 years (SD = 1.7), and 22.5% were sexually experienced. In our final model, condom use self-efficacy (attitude/perception factor) and intentions to remain abstinent until marriage (intention factor) were associated with lower odds of lifetime sexual experience. Age (sociodemographic factor), intention to have sex (intention factor), use of any contraception (behavior factor), and higher response efficacy (theoretical construct) were associated with lifetime sexual experience. Of these, intention to have sex was the strongest indicator. These results both corroborate and contrast with other research conducted among rural, reservation-based AI/AN youth. Our findings show programs targeting intentions may have the greatest impact among reservation-based AI youth, and justify program delivery stratified by age group in this setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-420
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Primary Prevention
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • American Indian/Alaska Native
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual experience
  • Sexually transmitted infection
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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