Methods: Data for this study is from a prospective, 4-year longitudinal study of 1240 adolescents recruited from 6 schools across the Midwest. At Time 2 of data collection, 1035 adolescents completed surveys, then 969 at Time 3, and 887 at Time 4. We used an autoregressive model with cross-lagged effects using Mplus to test study hypotheses.
Results: Sexting at Time 1 predicted oral and sexual encounters (anal or vaginal) at Time 4 for Black males, White males, and White females but not for Black females. Oral sex and sexual counters at Time 4 did not predict any sexting at Time 1 for all groups. Therefore, this establishes sexting as an antecedent to sexual behaviors for Black males, White males, and White females. Sexting at Time 1 and Sexual Behaviors (oral or sexual encounters) at Time 1 did not predict sexting and sexual behaviors for Black females at Time 4 and vice versa. However, sexting, and sexual behaviors were significantly associated cross-sectionally at Time 1 and Time 4.
Conclusions: Findings have implications fore prevention. This study identifies sexting as a precursor to sexual behaviors among Black male adolescents and White male and female adolescents. Therefore, when tailoring programs for safe sex among these populations, focusing on sexting may reduce sexual risky behaviors.