College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

The Relationship between Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Sexual Risk: Examining Potential Mechanisms

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-2010

Keywords

Sex Risk, HIV, PTSD, African American, Perceived Sexual Control

Publication Title

Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy

ISSN

1942-9681

Volume

2

Issue/No.

1

Abstract

Little is known about behavioral and psychological mechanisms that may explain relationships between posttraumatic stress and sexual risks. As rates of HIV infection among African American women remain significantly higher than for other female subgroups, research on sexual risk among African American women is needed. The present study examines the relationships of posttraumatic stress symptoms as measured by the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian Version with sexual risk behaviors, sexual sensation-seeking, and sexual compulsivity in 30 undergraduate African American women with any reported history of sexual intercourse. Higher posttraumatic stress symptoms were associated with more sexual partners, greater frequency of vaginal sex without a condom, and endorsement of sex while under the influence of a substance. Posttraumatic stress symptoms were negatively correlated with perceived sexual control, but were not significantly correlated with sexual compulsivity or sensation-seeking. Perceived sexual control was negatively associated with frequency of unprotected sex and sex under the influence. The preliminary evidence from this small sample suggests sexual control may mediate the relationship of the posttraumatic stress symptoms with unprotected sex. These results are generally consistent with previous findings suggesting posttraumatic stress is associated with sexual risk.

DOI

10.1037/a0018960

Peer Reviewed

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