Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Raul Gonzalez, Ph.D.

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Stefany Coxe, Ph.D.

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Erica Musser, Ph.D.

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Eric Wagner, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Risky behavior, adolescents, cannabis use, decision-making

Date of Defense



Risky sexual behavior (RSB) is the number one transmission method of HIV among adolescents. Reducing the rates of HIV among adolescents is of dire importance considering the rises in rates during the last several years. Minority adolescents are disproportionately affected by HIV, and a majority of the individuals living in Miami-Dade County (location of the proposed project) are minorities. RSB, externalizing disorders and cannabis use commonly occur together, such that both greater externalizing disorder symptoms and greater amounts of cannabis use have predicted engagement in more RSB. In addition, decision-making (a neurocognitive function) has found to be associated with cannabis use, externalizing disorders, and RSB. Little research has been conducted on these factors among adolescents. No study has evaluated externalizing disorders, cannabis use and decision-making together to determine the unique contribution of each factor to RSB among a sample of adolescents.

The current study used the infrastructure and participants of an existing project examining how decision-making abilities and memory performance are impacted by cannabis use during adolescence. Structural equation modeling and multiple linear regression were used to analyze how externalizing disorders, cannabis use, and decision-making predict RSB. Results suggest that externalizing symptoms, cannabis use and some decision-making tasks predict RSB. Several interactions effects emerged between externalizing symptoms and decision-making tasks, cannabis use and decision-making tasks as well as externalizing symptoms and cannabis use to predict RSB. The results of the study will help future prevention and intervention efforts such that interventions can be tailored to address the areas that contribute the most to RSB among adolescents. Furthermore, cognitive skill building is one possible intervention that may be beneficial to adolescents with poorer decision-making performance.







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