Participation in athletics and female sexual risk behavior: The evaluation of four causal structures

Tonya Dodge, James Jaccard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Researchers have reported that female athletes exhibit lower levels of sexual risk behavior than female nonathletes. The present study explored four causal structures relevant to such associations. Potential mediators and confounds included physical development, educational aspirations, self-esteem, attitudes toward pregnancy, adolescent involvement in a romantic relationship, age, ethnicity, and social class. Data were analyzed for a sample of female adolescents in Grades 7 through 11 using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in a two-wave panel design. A statistically significant association between the occurrence of a pregnancy and sports participation was reduced to statistical nonsignificance when certain demographic confounds were held constant, suggesting a spurious association between the variables. Pregnancy attitudes were found to account for the association between sports participation and sexual activity. Finally, sports participation interacted with paternal relationship satisfaction to predict pregnancy, with the father variable having a larger impact for athletes than nonathletes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-67
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Adolescent Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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