Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor's Name

Jonathan G. Tubman

First Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Robert Lickliter

Third Advisor's Name

James Jaccard

Fourth Advisor's Name

Eric F. Wagner

Keywords

HIV, adolescent risk, person center, sexual risk behavior

Date of Defense

7-8-2009

Abstract

Multi-problem youth undergoing treatment for substance use problems are at high behavioral risk for exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Specific risk factors include childhood adversities such as maltreatment experiences and subsequent forms of psychopathology. The current study used a person-centered analytical approach to examine how childhood maltreatment experiences were related to patterns of psychiatric symptoms and HIV/STI risk behaviors in a sample of adolescents (N = 408) receiving treatment services. Data were collected in face-to-face interviews at two community-based facilities. Descriptive statistics and Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) were used to (a) classify adolescents into groups based on past year psychiatric symptoms, and (b) examine relations between class membership and forms of childhood maltreatment experiences, as well as past year sexual risk behavior (SRB).

LPA results indicated significant heterogeneity in psychiatric symptoms among the participants. The three classes generated via the optimal LPA solution included: (a) a low psychiatric symptoms class, (b) a high alcohol symptoms class and (c) a high internalizing symptoms class. Class membership was associated significantly with adolescents’ self-reported scores for childhood sexual abuse and emotional neglect. ANOVAs documented significant differences in mean scores for multiple indices of SRB indices by class membership, demonstrating differential risk for HIV/STI exposure across classes. The two classes characterized by elevated psychiatric symptom profiles and more severe maltreatment histories were at increased behavioral risk for HIV/STI exposure, compared to the low psychiatric symptoms class. The high internalizing symptoms class reported the highest scores for most of the indices of SRB assessed. The heterogeneity of psychiatric symptom patterns documented in the current study has important implications for HIV/STI prevention programs implemented with multi-problem youth. The results highlight complex relations between childhood maltreatment experiences, psychopathology and multiple forms of health risk behavior among adolescents. The results underscore the importance of further integration between substance abuse treatment and HIV/STI risk reduction efforts to improve morbidity and mortality among vulnerable youth.

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