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Older Opposite-Sex Romantic Partners, Sexual Risk, and Victimization in Adolescence

NCJ Number
248074
Annotation
This study investigated how differences in ages among opposite-sex romantic partners was related to sexual risk-taking and victimization in adolescence.
Abstract
This study on whether differences in ages among opposite-sex romantic partners was related to sexual risk-taking and victimization in adolescence found that the wider the age gap between partners, the greater the likelihood that adolescents would engage in sex and be less likely to use protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. The study also found that wider age gaps between partners were associated with more frequent emotional and physical victimization, higher odds of unwanted sexual behavior, and a greater likelihood that both partners would engage in risky lifestyles. This study examined three questions related to age gaps among opposite-sex romantic partners: 1) whether younger partner age, age gap between partners, or a combination of these two factors was most strongly related to negative outcomes; 2) did age gaps relate to negative outcomes differently for male versus female adolescents; and 3) why did age gaps relate to negative outcomes? Data for the study were obtained from 201 at-risk adolescents, 60.2 percent female, who were enrolled in a study of romantic relationships among at-risk teens. Participants completed in-person interviews that focused primarily on their experiences within up to three romantic relationships. The findings from analysis of the data suggest that relationships that involve age gaps between partners tend to involve two partners who are engaging in deviant lifestyles overall, and that these deviant lifestyles create more opportunity or motivation for violence within the context of the relationship. Study limitations and implications for policy and practice are discussed. Tables, references, and appendix
Date Created: January 28, 2021