The effects of household disruption on the risk-taking behaviors of South African young people
Susan M. Lee-Rife, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Recent research estimates that one-third of South African young people are infected with HIV/AIDS. In such a context, anything that reduces condom use or control over sexual relationships can have life-threatening consequences. Household economic and contextual shocks—such as parental job loss and divorce—may be an important influence on adolescent risk-taking behaviors, but previous studies have not examined their influence. This paper examines the influence of household shocks on risky behaviors, including the use of condoms and contraception with recent sexual partners, non-monogamy, decision-making dynamics concerning condom usage, and substance use. Using data from two regionally-representative surveys of South African young people, I investigate the effects of any household shock, multiple shocks, and whether there are threshold or non-linear effects. This dynamic approach to households will provide additional insight into adolescent behavior. My findings have implications for research, policies, and programming on adolescent health, social inequality, and gender.