Behavioral Disinhibition and Sexual Risk Behavior among Adolescents and Young Adults in Malawi

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BACKGROUND: While behavioral factors such as early age of sexual debut, inconsistent use of condoms and multiple sexual partners have been studied in Africa, less is known about how characteristics such as impulsivity and externalizing behaviors relate to HIV-related sexual risk-taking in that region. The purpose of this study was to develop a culturally adapted behavioral disinhibition index in a sample of adolescents and young adults in Malawi. We then sought to examine the relationship between the index and sexual risk behavior as measured by multiple sexual partners and number of lifetime sexual partners.<br /><br />METHODS: Cross-sectional data were collected from 2342 participants in rural Malawi aged 15 to 29 years. We constructed a disinhibitory behavior score (DBS) using questions assessing disinhibitory behaviors. Bivariate analyses were conducted to assess the relationships among the individual DBS component behaviors. We utilized multivariable logistic regression to determine the association of the DBS with multiple sexual partners, and negative binomial regression to model the relationship between the DBS and number of lifetime sexual partners.<br /><br />FINDINGS: Nearly all the DBS component behaviors were significantly associated in the bivariate analyses. The DBS was associated with having multiple sexual partners (OR 1.97; 95% CI 1.57-2.48) in the multivariable logistic regression analysis. Further, negative binomial regression results demonstrated that the DBS was associated with an increased number of lifetime sexual partners (OR 1.11; 95% CI 1.07-1.16).<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: HIV preventive programs in Africa should take into consideration disinhibitory behaviors that may be associated with sexual risk-taking. The DBS can be used as a simple tool to identify those who may be more likely to engage in these behaviors and provide useful information regarding which groups of individuals particularly need to be targeted for behavior change interventions.




Muchimba, M., Burton, M., Yeatman, S., Chilungo, A., Haberstick, B. C., Young, S. E., … McQueen, M. B. (2013). Behavioral Disinhibition and Sexual Risk Behavior among Adolescents and Young Adults in Malawi. PLoS ONE, 8(9).

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