All About Power?: Age Gaps, Relationship Qualities, and Sexual Risk-Taking in Adolescent Dating Relationships

Christine M. Flanigan, Bowling Green State University
Monica A. Longmore, Bowling Green State University
Peggy C. Giordano, Bowling Green State University

Studies of teen sexual activity, contraceptive use, and pregnancy find increased sexual risk-taking in older male-younger female relationships. These studies imply that the relationship between age differentials and sexual risk-taking is due to power differences between partners However, measures of power are not typically included in such studies. We use data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (n=495) to examine two research questions. First, we present differentials in relationship qualities reported by females dating older vs. similarly-aged or younger males. These qualities include power differentials, conflict, involvement, and commitment. Second, we analyze sexual activity and condom use within these relationships, determining whether or not measures of power differentials and other relationship qualities mediate relationships between having an older boyfriend and sexual risk-taking. Results indicate few differences in relationship qualities by partner age, and that relationship qualities do not mediate the relationship between sexual activity and having an older male partner.

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Presented in Poster Session 3