The proposed project will help me develop the skills and expertise necessary to establish an independent research career focused on the role of substance use in sexual risk-taking behavior and associated adverse reproductive outcomes, especially sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To achieve this goal, I will supplement my graduate training as a developmental psychologist and post-doctoral training in epidemiology with training in sexual risk behavior in vulnerable populations, health disparities associated with race, and career development in longitudinal research methodology. Complementary to these training activities, I propose: 1) secondary data analyses of sexual risk behavior and outcomes using data from an ongoing longitudinal study of the offspring of teenage mothers and a study of women with and without borderline personality disorder (BPD);2) collection of new data on the offspring of teenage mothers during a 16-year assessment and;3) a new pilot study of common STIs in this sample (offspring of teenage mothers). The proposed research will form the basis for an ROI application in the third year of the award period. My short term goals are to (1) increase knowledge about risk for STIs, including behavioral dysregulation that may underlie risky sex and risk factors associated with risky sex and associated outcomes, (2) learn new methods of measuring risk behavior and adverse reproductive outcomes, including clinical tests for STIs and event-level assessments, (3) learn more about health disparities associated with race, and (4) develop the research skills that will enable me to become an independent investigator and obtain NIH funding to support my research, specifically longitudinal data analyses. My long-term career goal is to understand the ecological setting for drug use and sexual risk behaviors in vulnerable populations, and how drug use may contribute to significantly higher rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs in African-American youth. The proposed career development training will take place at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. This department provides an outstanding environment for interdisciplinary training by highly collaborative faculty who are leading experts in their chosen fields.
(See Instructions): The proposed research will help identify behavioral risk factors for sexually transmitted infections that are implicated in higher rates of HIV, especially among African-Americans. The results can be used to develop prevention programs aimed at reducing drug use and sexually transmitted infections among vulnerable adolescents and within psychiatric populations.