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This study seeks to examine the relationship between stressful life events and risky sexual behavior in Spit for Science: the VCU Student Survey. Research has shown that when facing a stressful life event, an individual can experience negative and lasting consequences long after the event is over. All subjects used in this study were VCU juniors who entered VCU in the fall of 2011 (n=970). Participants were asked about exposure to different types of traumatic life events (natural disaster, transportation accident or assault). Stressful life events were also measured by creating a sum score based on the total number of stressful life events a person experienced. Risky sexual behavior was measured with a sum score of up to 5 possible different types of risky sexual behavior a person could engage in (e.g., unprotected sex in the last 3 months). Linear regressions were used to test the effect of stressful life events on risky sexual behavior. Results showed that there was a significant relationship between stressful life events and risky sexual behavior: the average risky sexual behavior sum score was higher in those participants who had experienced stressful life event. The possibility of a dose-response relationship also exists wherein more stressful life events could result in more risky sexual behavior. These results suggest that those who have faced significant stressful life events may benefit from sex education training.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)



Stress, Stressful Life events, risk, risky sexual behavior, traumatic life events

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Amy Adkins

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Danielle Dick


© The Author(s)

The relationship between stressful life events and risky sexual behavior