Body Image, Depressed Mood, Weight Concerns, and Risky Sexual Behaviors Among Female Adolescents

Khiya J. Marshall M.P.H., University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth

Abstract

Marshall, Khiya J., Body Image, Depressed Mood, Weight Concerns, and Risky Sexual Behaviors among Female Adolescents. Doctor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences), May 2006, 75 pp., 17 tables, bibliography, 90 titles. Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and growth, both emotionally and physically, particularly for adolescent females. The literature lacks specific research pertaining to female adolescent females. The literature lacks specific research pertaining to female adolescent’s body image and other concerns and their association with risky sexual behaviors. Using secondary data from the 2003 Dallas Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS; 9th-12th grade), this study explored the relationship between body image, having a depressed mood, and weight control behaviors and how these may translate into risky sexual behaviors among Dallas Independent School District (DISD) adolescent females. Most respondents were African American and Hispanic. The main hypotheses were: a) African American and Hispanic adolescent females will be more likely to have a depressed mood, an unrealistic body image, or weight control behaviors compared to Caucasian adolescent females; and b) Adolescents with unrealistic body image, depressed mood, and weight control behaviors will be more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, regardless of race or ethnicity. As hypothesized, more African American and Hispanic adolescents had a depressed mood, and more Hispanics had an unrealistic body image compared to Caucasians. The hypothesis that depressed mood and unrealistic body image would be significant predictors of engaging in risky sexual behaviors was corroborated only for depressed mood. Engaging in weight control, although hypothesized as not a significant predictor, was a significant predictor for using alcohol/drugs before his last sexual intercourse. School-based sexual education programs that target adolescent females in DISD should focus on abstinence or consistent condom use if sexually active, weight control behaviors, and depressed mood and its implications.