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What You Don't Know Can Hurt You: Perceptions of Sex-Partner Concurrency and Partner-Reported Behavior

April 19, 2006

The current study sought to determine the extent of agreement between adolescents' perceptions of sex-partner concurrency, having a partner with other, overlapping sexual relationships, and their partners' self-reported concurrency, and to learn the relationship-level factors that are associated with agreement regarding concurrency.

At a primary care clinic and a public STD clinic, the researchers recruited adolescents ages 14-19, along with their main sex partners. The teens were interviewed separately and questioned about their own concurrency status and their perception of their partners' concurrency status. Information from participants as well as their partners was included in the analysis.

Ninety heterosexual, African-American, sexually experienced couples were interviewed. Among males and females who said their partner did not have other partners, 16 percent and 37 percent, respectively, of their sex partners reported having other partners. Among males and females who perceived their partners did have other partners, 80 percent and 39 percent, respectively, of their partners did not report having other partners. In multivariate logistic regression, couples who had been together for more than six months and considered themselves closer emotionally were almost twice as likely to agree on concurrency.

"To appropriately tailor risk reduction messages, prevention efforts need to consider adolescents' perceptions of concurrent sex partners," the researchers concluded. Among the studied couples, the authors found that "agreement between perceptions of sex-partner concurrency and partner-reported behavior was low. To the extent that partner self-reports are accurate, individuals who presume that they are in a mutually monogamous relationship often underestimate their own sexually transmitted disease risk."

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Excerpted from:
Journal of Adolescent Health
03.06; Vol. 38; No. 3: P. 179-185; Chavonne D. Lenoir, M.P.H.; Nancy E. Adler, Ph.D.; Dina L.G. Borzekowski, Ed.D.; Jeanne M. Tschann, Ph.D.; Jonathan M. Ellen, M.D.

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