The Association of Childhood Personality on Sexual Risk Taking During Adolescence

BACKGROUND: Sexual risk taking during adolescence such as failure to use contraception or condoms is associated with premature parenthood and high rates of sexually transmitted infection. The relation of childhood personality to sexual risk taking during adolescence has been largely unexplored. METHODS: Using data collected from participants in the Child Sample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (CS-NLSY) when they were 5 or 6 years of age (time 1) and 17 or 18 years of age (time 2), the relation of childhood personality to sexual risk taking during adolescence was investigated. Maternal ratings of childhood personality were used to derive resiliency, undercontrol, and overcontrol prototypical profile scores for a diverse sample of 1219 child participants from the CS-NLSY. At time 2, participants reported whether they failed to use oral contraception or condoms during their last sexual intercourse. Logistic regression models were used to investigate the association of personality to sexual risk taking. RESULTS: Proximity to the overcontrolled personality prototype at time 1 was associated with a decreased likelihood of sexual risk taking. Age, male gender, and childhood cognitive achievement were also significant predictors of sexual risk taking. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that children with personality profiles in which internalizing traits are more prominent are less likely than their peers to engage in sexual risk taking during late adolescence. The findings of this study augment previous studies that indicate that personality is an important predictor of development and underscore the importance of conducting research into the processes by which personality influences health behavior.