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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Georgia State: Peers Greatest Influence on Sex Risk-taking by Young Black Men

Efforts to reduce risky sexual practices among young Black men may work best if they target peer groups, according to a recent study led by researchers from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

[Photo: Mr. Jamal Jones]

Black men and youth ages 13 to 24 face a disproportionate burden of sexually transmitted diseases, often due to incorrect or inconsistent condom use, the researchers noted.

“Sexual risk increases as young, bBack men perceive that more of their friends find sexual risk-taking behavior acceptable,” the study stated.

To assess the effects of peer groups and other factors on sexual risk behavior among young Black men, researchers analyzed survey data from 702 Black males between 15 and 23 years old in Louisiana and North Carolina. Participants were asked about their number of sex partners and condom use; their perceptions about how closely their parents monitored them and about how much their peers thought sex without protection was acceptable; their desire to impregnate their sex partners; and their living environment — such as whether they had recently witnessed an arrest or illegal drug use.

The results showed peer norms (how much they perceived their peers would think sexual intercourse without a condom is acceptable) held the greatest influence over the study group’s number of lifetime sexual partners, number of recent sexual partners and number of unprotected sexual encounters.

The results are published in the article “Contextual Factors and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Young, Black Men” in the American Journal of Men’s Health. Its lead author is Mr. Jamal Jones, a doctoral student in Georgia State’s School of Public Health.

“The results from this report suggest that the single greatest return on behavioral intervention efforts for young, Black men may occur for peer norms pertaining to condom use,” the researchers stated.

However, the study also found that parental monitoring — the extent to which parents know where and with whom their sons spend time — could mitigate risk-taking sexual behavior. The impact of parental monitoring depends on the quality of communication between son and parents, rather than frequency, the study stated.

“Targeting parents and guardians is still important, as parental monitoring was a moderator of the peer norm/lifetime number of sexual partners association in this study,” the researchers stated.

The study’s authors also include Dr. Laura Salazar, professor of health promotion and behavior at Georgia State University; and Dr. Richard Crosby with the University of Kentucky.