Culture-Based Prediction of Adolescent HIV Risk Behavior

Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Location(s): United States


Consisting of ideas, understandings, beliefs, and subjective knowledge, culture is a determinant of adolescent risk behavior that is shared by adolescents in a given social group. Culture affects adolescent risk behavior because individuals choose roles and select situations leading to risky behavior from among culturally posited options. In this five-year, community-based research project, Dr. Eyre’s research team has studied a particular domain of adolescent culture, that of sex and romantic relationships. The research is focused on a population that has high levels of risk for HIV infection associated with sex and romantic relationships–low to mid-low SES heterosexual African American late adolescents (ages 19-22). The goal of the research is to identify cultural predictors of HIV risk that are generalizable to low to mid-low SES heterosexual African American late adolescents. A first specific aim is to identify, using qualitative methods, cultural models of sex and romantic relationships in samples drawn from communities in three geographically distal cities: Oakland, CA, Chicago, IL and Birmingham, AL. A second specific aim is to compare, using a survey, cultural models related to sex and romantic relationships among samples drawn from the same three sites. A third specific aim is to study the effect of cultural model-determined culturally specified attributes (CSAs) related to sex and romantic relationships on the HIV risk behaviors of these groups. In the same survey, researchers are testing the hypothesis that these CSA measures will predict HIV risk behaviors better than non-cultural self-report measures that have previously been shown to predict HIV risk behaviors in these populations. The proposed research tests an innovative method for identification of group-specific cultural knowledge related to sex and romantic relationships, determines a cultural common denominator that excludes group differences, and develops individual culture-based measures that can be used both to explain HIV risk behavior and to design HIV risk reduction interventions suited to specific populations.