Developmental patterns of sexual identity, romantic attraction, and sexual behavior among adolescents over three years.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Multicenter Study)

INTRODUCTION: Adolescents are heterogeneous in how they define and experience their sexual orientation, which can include specific identity labels, romantic attractions, and other- and/or same-sex sexual behavior. These three components of sexual orientation are not always concordant, and studies suggest adolescents-particularly girls-are fluid in these dimensions of orientation over time. The current study examined: 1) fluidity in adolescent girls' and boys' self-labeled identities and romantic attractions over time, and 2) patterns of adolescent girls' and boys' self-labeled identities and romantic attractions as they coincide with sexual behavior. METHODS: Surveys were administered to adolescents in three low-income high schools in the rural Southeastern U.S. at three yearly intervals (n = 744; Mage = 15.0; 54.3% girls; 48% White, 24% Hispanic/Latinx, 21% Black/African American). Participants reported their self-labeled sexual identity and romantic attraction at each time point and their lifetime sexual behavior with girls and boys at year 3. RESULTS: Results revealed 26% of girls and 11% of boys reported fluidity in identity and 31% of girls and 10% of boys reported fluidity in attractions. At each time point, up to 20% of girls and 6% of boys reported a sexual minority identity label with concurrent same-sex attraction; the majority of these participants also reported same-sex behavior. Among heterosexual-identified participants reporting some degree of same-sex attraction at year 3, approximately 66% of girls and 10% of boys reported same-sex behavior. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that many adolescents are nuanced and dynamic in how they identify and experience their developing sexualities.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Stewart, JL; Spivey, LA; Widman, L; Choukas-Bradley, S; Prinstein, MJ

Published Date

  • December 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 77 /

Start / End Page

  • 90 - 97

PubMed ID

  • 31693971

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6885553

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1095-9254

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.10.006


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England