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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Prospective cohort study of childhood behaviour problems and adolescent sexual risk-taking: gender matters

S. Rachel Skinner A H , Jennifer Marino B C , Susan L. Rosenthal D , Jeffrey Cannon E , Dorota A. Doherty F G and Martha Hickey B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, University of Sydney, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia.

B Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.

C Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne, Vic. 3052, Australia.

D Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, New York, NY 10032, USA.

E Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA 6008, Australia.

F Biostatistics and Research Design Unit, Women and Infants Research Foundation, Perth, WA 6008, Australia.

G School of Women’s and Infants’ Health, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA 6008, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email: rachel.skinner@sydney.edu.au

Sexual Health 14(6) 492-501 https://doi.org/10.1071/SH16240
Submitted: 21 December 2016  Accepted: 29 March 2017   Published: 14 June 2017

Abstract

Background: Externalising (delinquent, aggressive) and internalising (anxious/depressed, withdrawn) behaviour problems are prevalent in childhood. Few studies have prospectively measured relationships between childhood behaviour problems and adolescent health risk behaviour, a major predictor of morbidity and mortality. This study sought to determine relationships, by gender, between childhood behaviour problems and adolescent risky sexual behaviours and substance use. Methods: In a population-based birth cohort [The Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study], total, externalising and internalising behaviour problems (domain-specific T ≥ 60) were calculated from parent-reported Child Behavior Checklist at ages 2, 5, 8, 10 and 14 years. At age 17 years, 1200 (49% male) participants reported sexual and substance use activity Results: For both genders, those with earlier externalising behaviour problems were more likely to be sexually active (oral sex or sexual intercourse) by age 17 years. Males with childhood externalising behaviour problems were more likely to have multiple sexual partners by age 17 years than those without such problems [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 2.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.49–5.86]. Females with childhood externalising behaviour problems were more likely to have had unwanted sex (aOR 1.91, 95% CI 1.04–3.53). Externalising behaviour problems were associated with substance use for both genders. No association was found between internalising behaviour problems and risky behaviour. Conclusions: Externalising behaviour problems from as early as 5 years old in boys and 8 years old in girls predict a range of risky sexual behaviour in adolescence, which has important implications for targeting interventions in adolescence.


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