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Abstract

Unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STI) are increasing at a faster rate among young, low income Latinas as compared to other low income groups of girls. However, little is known about the non-coital behavior that early adolescent girls may engage in, which puts them at risk for initiation of intercourse. This study examines the frequency of a particular non-coital behavior, being touched below the waist on top of clothes, and investigates how girls who engage in this behavior differ from those who do not with respect to individual (biologic and cognitive), social (peer norms and acculturation), and parental (single versus dual parent home) variables. Forty-four English-speaking Latinas completed an electronic survey assessing demographic and key study variables. The survey was conducted in a middle school computer lab before and after school, under adult supervision, as part of a larger study testing a pregnancy prevention program. Almost one third of the sample (31.8%) reported being touched below the waist with their clothes on. Those who reported this behavior differed from those who did not with respect to one individual (sexual agency) and one social variable (peer norms) (p < .05). Study findings indicate that early adolescent Latinas are engaging in non-coital behavior that put them at risk for initiating intercourse. These findings argue for the power of peer norms in this age group.

KEY WORDS: pre-adolescent, non-coital, Latinas, sexual behavior

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