Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor's Name

H. Virginia McCoy

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Jessy G. Dévieux

Third Advisor's Name

William W. Darrow

Fourth Advisor's Name

Changwon Yoo


adolescents, HIV, gender differences, South Florida, protective factors, risk factors, behavior, Problem Behavior Theory, Theory of Gender and Power

Date of Defense



Adolescents engage in a range of risk behaviors during their transition from childhood to adulthood. Identifying and understanding interpersonal and socio-environmental factors that may influence risk-taking is imperative in order to meet the Healthy People 2020 goals of reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancies, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections among youth. The purpose of this study was to investigate gender differences in the predictors of HIV risk behaviors among South Florida youth. More specifically, this study examined how protective factors, risk factors, and health risk behaviors, derived from a guiding framework using the Theory of Problem Behavior and Theory of Gender and Power, were associated with HIV risk behavior.

A secondary analysis of 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data sets from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach school districts tested hypotheses for factors associated with HIV risk behaviors. The sample consisted of 5,869 high school students (mean age 16.1 years), with 69% identifying as Black or Hispanic. Logistic regression analyses revealed gender differences in the predictors of HIV risk behavior. An increase in the health risk behaviors was related to an increase in the odds that a student would engage in HIV risk behavior. An increase in risk factors was also found to significantly predict an increase in the odds of HIV risk behavior, but only in females. Also, the probability of participation in HIV risk behavior increased with grade level.

Post-hoc analyses identified recent sexual activity (past 3 months) as the strongest predictor of condom nonuse and having four or more sexual partners for both genders. The strongest predictors of having sex under the influence of drugs/alcohol were alcohol use in both genders, marijuana use in females, and physical fighting in males. Gender differences in the predictors of unprotected sex, multiple sexual partners, and having sex under the influence were also found.

Additional studies are warranted to understand the gender differences in predictors of HIV risk behavior among youth in order to better inform prevention programming and policy, as well as meet the national Healthy People 2020 goals.





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