Young Black men living in resource-poor rural environments are disproportionately affected by both adverse childhood experiences and HIV/STIs. The influence of childhood adversity on sexual risk behavior remains to be examined among this vulnerable population.
In this study, we investigated the influence of overall adversity as well as three subcomponents, abusive parenting, parental neglect, and witnessing family violence, on men’s engagement in sexual risk behavior. We hypothesized that adverse experiences would predict engagement in sexual risk behaviors including multiple sexual partnerships, inconsistent condom use, frequent sexual activity, and concurrent substance abuse and sexual activity. We tested formally the extent to which defensive relational schemas mediated these associations.
Hypotheses were tested with data from 505 rural Black men (M age = 20.29, SD = 1.10) participating in the African American Men’s Health Project. Participants were recruited using respondent-driven sampling. Self-report data were gathered from participants via audio computer-assisted self-interviews.
Bi-factor analyses revealed that, in addition to a common adversity factor, neglect independently predicted sexual risk behavior. Men’s defensive relational schemas partially mediated the influence of the common adversity factor as well as the neglect subcomponent on sexual risk behavior.
The present research identified a potential risk factor for sexual risk behavior in an understudied and vulnerable population. Adverse childhood experiences in general, and neglect in particular, may place many young Black men at risk for engaging in sexual risk behavior due in part to the influence of these experiences on men’s development of relational schemas characterized by defensiveness and mistrust.