Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Shauna M. Cooper

Abstract

Studies show that, while alcohol use and risky sexual activities increase during emerging adulthood, college students are more likely to engage in these behaviors than their non-student counterparts (Slutske et al., 2004). Researchers should explore risk behavior participation among African American youth, as they often face health disparities and more severe consequences of engaging in these acts than their White American counterparts (Sharma & Atri, 2006; Jackson, Hodge, & Vaughn, 2010). Although epidemiological and variable-centered studies often examine the drinking and sexual behavior of African American college students, there is a need for research utilizing a profile-oriented approach to explore within group differences that exist in these behaviors which often co-occur. As opposed to previous variable-centered approaches that force variables into predetermined categories, the multidimensional, profile oriented approach is beneficial in that it elucidates patterns in individual responses and allows for the identification of similar groups that exist within larger, heterogeneous groups (Jung & Wickrama, 2008). Utilizing Latent Class Analysis, the current study fills this gap by identifying risk behavior profiles of alcohol use (amount of alcohol consumed, drinking and driving), risky sex (number of partners), and co-occurrence of alcohol use and sexual activity among a college student sample of 228 African American emerging adults in college. Additionally, as alcohol consumption is also described as a maladaptive response strategy that often leads to risky sex and co-occurring risk behaviors, the larger literature indicates that student stress and social support serve as factors of risk and resilience that are associated with risk behavior participation among college enrolled youth (Unger, Hamilton, & Sussman, 2004; Plybon, et al., 2003). Because African American students experience compounded stress in the face of racial discrimination, studies also should explore the impact of culturally specific stress (Sue et al., 2007; Murry et al., 2005) and demographic variables (e.g., Pergamit, Huang, & Lane, 2001) on the behaviors of African American youth. Thus, this investigation also examines whether identified risk behavior profiles are associated with risk and resilience factors including general and culturally specific stress (interpersonal stress, intrapersonal stress, academic stress, environmental stress, and experiences with racial discrimination) and support (from one’s family, friends, and college community), as well as demographic indicators (e.g., age, gender, and socioeconomic status) for this sample of African American emerging adults in college. Results of a latent class analysis identified 5 distinct profiles among this sample- 1) High Sexual Risk (N=11), 2) Abstainers (N=102), 3) Low Risk (N=72), 4) Alcohol Risk (N=34), and 5) Mixed Risk (N=9). Partial evidence (i.e., overall differences for age, but not for gender or SES) was found for demographic variation among risk behavior profiles. Regarding contextual stress, identified profiles differed across interpersonal and environmental stress, but not across intrapersonal or academic stress. Also, differences among risk behavior profiles regarding self-reported frequency of experiences with racial discrimination between the Alcohol Risk profile and Abstainers. This investigation provided no support for mean differences between the classes in relation to the reported social support that students received from their family, friends, or college community.

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