Applying ecological perspectives to adolescent sexual health in the United States: Rhetoric or reality?

Laura F. Salazar, Erin L.P. Bradley, Sinead N. Younge, Nichole A. Daluga, Richard A. Crosby, Delia L. Lang, Ralph J. Diclemente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study sought to determine the perspective taken toward understanding adolescent sexual risk behaviors and related biological outcomes (i.e. pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases) since 1990. We content analyzed 324 abstracts representing observational research published between January 1990 and December 2007 for inclusion of ecological (environmental) factors, level of analysis, sample composition and type of behavioral and biological outcomes. A majority (95%) of studies included individual characteristics; half were void of any environmental factors. Of those including environmental factors, 27% included familial, 23% community, 13% relational and 3% societal factors. Most (80%) were positioned at the individual level of analysis. Samples were diverse (43%) and of mixed gender (71%). Biomarkers of sexually transmitted diseases (7.5%) or pregnancy outcomes (2%) were rare. Ecological inclusion was not related to year of publication. Despite the rhetoric highlighting, the importance of an ecological perspective in understanding adolescent sexual risk behavior, much published research, excludes environmental influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-562
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Education Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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