Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Ann Marie Yali

Second Advisor

Adriana Espinosa


Risky sexual behavior, ethnic identity, self-construal


Recent national health reports have shown that despite a considerable increase in sexual health knowledge, risky sexual behaviors’ rates among the youth are on the rise. Minorities are disproportionately affected, which translates into strong racial disparities in health outcomes such as STI/STDs, and HIV prevalence. The literature examining ethnic differences in health behaviors has studied ethnic identity (self-identification with and commitment to the values of one’s ethnic group) as a protective factor against an array of maladaptive behaviors. In addition, self-construal, which refers to the extent to which one is individualistic or collectivistic has also been established as a positive influence health-related decisions. While race and nativity status shape individuals’ perceived social norms, ethnic identity and self-construal determine the extent to which they endorse and conform to those norms and values. The current study extends prior work by investigating the effect of ethnic identity and self-construal on sexual risk taking and whether it is contingent on race and nativity status. Data was collected from a sample of 356 college students using self-report questionnaires. The findings indicated differences in unprotected sex between US and Foreign born for Blacks and Latino ethnic groups and in number of sexual partners for Whites. Ethnic identity was associated with a lower frequency of unprotected sex for US born and a higher number of sexual partners for Whites. An Interdependent self-construal was related to more unprotected sex for Blacks. Lastly, self-construal moderated the relationship between ethnic identity and number of sexual partners for Whites and Asians. These results suggest that effects of ethnic identity on risky sexual behavior are contingent upon preexisting cultural norms and construal of self. Implications for health communication approaches are discussed.



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