Date of Award

August 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Peter A. Vanable


exposure to community violence, neighborhood disorder, neighborhood stress, sexual risk behaviors, social control theory, stress and coping hypothesis

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Neighborhood stress stemming from exposure to physical and social decay, as well as violence and crime may be a critical risk factor for risky sexual behaviors among adolescents. The present study sought to: 1) characterize the prospective association of neighborhood stress with adolescent sexual risk behaviors; 2) test whether depression and perceived peer risk norms mediate this association, as proposed by the stress and coping hypothesis and social control theory, respectively; and 3) test whether plausible alternative hypotheses to the stress and coping hypothesis and social control theory can explain the data as well as these hypotheses. Path analysis was used to address these aims in longitudinal study of 1,612 Black adolescents (mean age = 15.14 years [SD = 1.06]; 60% female). Data from baseline, 12-month, 18-month, and 36-month assessments were used for analyses. Results indicated that: 1) neighborhood stress was positively, longitudinally associated with number of vaginal sex partners; 2) the effect of neighborhood stress on subsequent condom use was mediated by depressive symptoms, providing partial support for the stress and coping hypothesis; and 3) the effect of neighborhood stress on subsequent perceived peer risk norms was mediated by number of vaginal sex partners, providing partial support for an alternative hypothesis to the social control theory. These findings suggest that neighborhood stress increases number of sexual partners and decreases condom use among adolescents, and that its effect on the latter acts indirectly via depressive symptoms. Future research should clarify whether neighborhood-wide interventions would reduce risky sexual behavior among adolescents.


Open Access