They also found that girls who had sent naked photos of themselves had a higher chance of engaging in risky sex, including having multiple partners and using substances before sex. Demographics Adolescents and their parents provided self-reports of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and family income. Adolescents who report more intense and labile emotions and less effective regulation of these emotions have been found to report more problem behaviors 16 and more sexual partners. Unpublished manuscript, Columbia University, New York, NY were used to assess whether participants had ever engaged in a variety of sexual behaviors. Sexting behavior both photo and text messages was not uncommon among middle school youth and co-occurred with sexual behavior. Published data on adolescent sexting behaviors are scant, making it difficult to determine prevalence. Eligible youth were in the seventh grade, between 12 and 14 years of age, and identified by school counselors, nurses, and administrators for symptoms of behavioral or emotional difficulties.
Sexting of any kind was associated with higher rates of engaging in a variety of sexual behaviors, and sending photos was associated with higher rates of sexual activity than sending text messages only. Reports of sexual intentions are related to sexual behaviors among youth with mental health problems, 11 , 12 but it is unknown whether teenagers with greater intentions to have sex engage in sexting. What This Study Adds: These school professionals were provided with a standardized checklist of symptoms eg, withdrawing, hyperactivity, nervousness, declining grades to assist in identifying students. The 3-item Perceived Parental Approval 20 administered separately regarding mothers and fathers, as appropriate , 3-item Perceived Peer Approval, 20 and 4-item Perceived Sexual Permission from the Media 21 scales were used to assess perceived environmental approval of sexual activity. It also aimed to determine whether differences in risk were associated with text-based versus photo-based sexts. Higher scores represent greater emotional self-efficacy. Rice and colleagues found that teenagers who sexted were 7 times more likely to be sexually active and nearly twice as likely to engage in unprotected sex than their peers. Eligible youth were in the seventh grade, between 12 and 14 years of age, and identified by school counselors, nurses, and administrators for symptoms of behavioral or emotional difficulties. These data suggest that phone behaviors, even flirtatious messages, may be an indicator of risk. Given the existing gaps in the literature, the goal of the current study was to examine the prevalence of sexting behaviors among a sample of at-risk early adolescents. Higher scores indicate more difficulty with emotions. Sexting may also relate to difficulties with managing emotions. Findings from cross-sectional studies of high school students suggest that teenagers who sext engage in higher rates of sexual activity, which may put them at further risk for unintended pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted diseases. Demographics Adolescents and their parents provided self-reports of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and family income. Students were excluded if they were pregnant, self-identified as HIV-positive, were developmentally delayed, had a history of sexually aggressive behavior, were unable to participate in groups in English, or had a sibling in the project. Emotional Competency Emotion regulation capabilities were measured by using 2 subscales of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale, 22 Lack of Emotional Awareness 6 items , and Limited Access to Emotion Regulation Strategies 8 items , by using a 5-point scale. Even in the absence of clear data regarding prevalence, sexting may still serve as a potentially important marker of risky behavior. In addition, no studies have explored the relationship between these 2 types of sexting behaviors with sexual risk. Statistical Analysis Three groups were defined by their sexting behavior: Unpublished manuscript, Columbia University, New York, NY were used to assess whether participants had ever engaged in a variety of sexual behaviors. Adolescents were classified as not engaging in any sexting behaviors No Sexting , as having sent sexual messages only Text Only , or as having sent sexual photos, with or without texts Photo. Logistic regression models were used to make comparisons among the 3 groups for sexual risk behaviors, and general linear models were used to make comparisons for risk-related cognitions and affect regulation. This distinction may be important because sending a sexually explicit message may not have the same social consequences as sending a photo. Sexting behavior both photo and text messages was not uncommon among middle school youth and co-occurred with sexual behavior. All procedures were approved by the hospital institutional review board. Demographics Demographics for each sexting group are presented in Table 1.
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