Poster Title

Age of first arrest, sex, and drug use as correlates of adult risk behaviors among rural women in jails

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Institution

University of Kentucky

KY House District #

76

KY Senate District #

13

Department

College of Social Work

Abstract

Incarcerated women frequently report initiation of substance use and sexual encounters at an early age, and often engage in high-risk drug use and sexual behaviors as adults. Less is known, however, about the relationship between age of onset of these risk behaviors, as well as the timing of first arrest, and risky behaviors in adulthood. Objectives of the present study were to: 1) profile age of first arrest, age of first illicit drug use, and age of first sex in a sample of rural women drug users (N=400) recruited from jails and screened for high-risk behaviors; 2) to examine the relationships among the age of onset of these risk behaviors; and 3) to examine the unique contributions of these onset variables to adult high-risk drug use and high-risk sexual practices. Ages of initiation were all positively and significantly correlated at the bivariate level, indicating that onset of sex, illicit drug use, and arrest are related among high-risk rural women. In logistic regression models, each onset variable independently increased the likelihood of several specific adult risky substance-using or sexual behaviors; independent effects of demographic covariates were also noted. In describing rural women’s initiation of risky behaviors and involvement with the justice system and exploring associated differences in adult trajectories, this study has contributed to an understanding of the development of high-risk rural women. Implications are discussed for screening, intervention, and treatment targeting vulnerable women and girls in rural areas, particularly within criminal justice settings.

Keywords: risk behaviors, rural, incarcerated, women, initiation, substance use, arrest, sexual behavior

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Age of first arrest, sex, and drug use as correlates of adult risk behaviors among rural women in jails

Incarcerated women frequently report initiation of substance use and sexual encounters at an early age, and often engage in high-risk drug use and sexual behaviors as adults. Less is known, however, about the relationship between age of onset of these risk behaviors, as well as the timing of first arrest, and risky behaviors in adulthood. Objectives of the present study were to: 1) profile age of first arrest, age of first illicit drug use, and age of first sex in a sample of rural women drug users (N=400) recruited from jails and screened for high-risk behaviors; 2) to examine the relationships among the age of onset of these risk behaviors; and 3) to examine the unique contributions of these onset variables to adult high-risk drug use and high-risk sexual practices. Ages of initiation were all positively and significantly correlated at the bivariate level, indicating that onset of sex, illicit drug use, and arrest are related among high-risk rural women. In logistic regression models, each onset variable independently increased the likelihood of several specific adult risky substance-using or sexual behaviors; independent effects of demographic covariates were also noted. In describing rural women’s initiation of risky behaviors and involvement with the justice system and exploring associated differences in adult trajectories, this study has contributed to an understanding of the development of high-risk rural women. Implications are discussed for screening, intervention, and treatment targeting vulnerable women and girls in rural areas, particularly within criminal justice settings.

Keywords: risk behaviors, rural, incarcerated, women, initiation, substance use, arrest, sexual behavior