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  • March 21, 2019
  • Taggart, Tamara
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior
  • There is a large and persistent racial disparity in the incidence of HIV and STD infection among adolescents. Despite advances in prevention and treatment, black adolescents experience the greatest burden of these diseases. Decreasing the number of adolescents who engage in sexual activity is one way to address this disparity. Researchers have identified several determinants associated with black adolescent sociocultural context which delay adolescent sexual initiation; one such determinant is religiosity. Grounded in concepts from social control theory, intersectionality, and models of socialization and religious development, this dissertation explored how black adolescent religiosity and racial identity influence sexual initiation. Data originated from the National Survey of American Life-Adolescent (n=1170), a nationally representative study of black adolescents. Factor analysis, structural equation modeling, latent profile analysis, and logistic regression were used to test study hypotheses. Aim one assessed the measurement properties of a multidimensional measure of black adolescent religiosity. The final model of black adolescent religiosity consisted of four constructs and was invariant across ethnic-gender subgroups. This measure of religiosity was used in subsequent aims. Aim two determined the nature of associations among religious socialization, religiosity, and sexual initiation. Results indicated that as adolescents received more messages about religious beliefs and practices, their religiosity increased. In turn, they were less likely to report sexual initiation. Tests for moderated-mediation showed that these relationships varied by gender and ethnicity (Caribbean black and African American). Aim three explored the joint effects of religiosity and racial identity on sexual initiation. Analyses yielded four distinct profiles of religiosity and racial identity. These profiles explained approximately 8% of the variability in sexual initiation. Additional analysis revealed sociodemographic differences for profile membership based on adolescent ethnicity, gender, and parent nativity. Findings from this dissertation contribute to evidence supporting re-conceptualizing black adolescent religiosity for research and practice. These results also provide insight into how examining intra-group variability among factors associated with black adolescent sociocultural context has implications for designing culturally and developmentally appropriate interventions. Additional research is needed to further clarify how these concepts, in addition to structural factors, contribute to HIV and STD infection among black adolescents.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Powell, Wizdom
  • Ennett, Susan
  • Chatters, Linda
  • Gottfredson, Nisha
  • Carter-Edwards, Lori
  • Eng, Eugenia
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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