Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Family Science and Human Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Robert J. Reid

Committee Member

Pauline Garcia-Reid

Committee Member

Elizabeth Rivera Rodas


Adolescent females of color, particularly Black and Hispanic adolescents, are often viewed as a homogenous group with adolescent boys of color, thus ignoring unique gender-racial specific risk and protective factors to drug use and HIV/AIDS that may be present. Such an absence can lead to flawed outcomes in HIV, STIs (sexually transmitted infections), and substance abuse prevention work that may continue to marginalize girls of color. Using empowerment theory and intersectionality as a framework, this study examines the extent to which ethnic identity, social support, and psychological empowerment is on drug use and sexual risk behavior. The study uses a sample of (N = 830) female adolescents who identify as being Black only or Non-White Hispanic only. All participants resided in a northeastern urban community in New Jersey. A majority of the participants (90%) were between the ages of 15–17 years of age. Confirmatory factor analysis was employed to test the factor structure of the scale used to measure psychological empowerment and structural equation modeling was used to test the hypothesized model of the mediating role of drug use on sexual risk behavior. Findings revealed that 30-day drug use significantly mediated the relationship between social support, ethnic identity, and psychological empowerment on sexual risk behavior. By highlighting the strengths of Black and Hispanic girls, researchers can attempt to learn from those who are not engaging in risky behaviors as a way to incorporate a strengths-based view in prevention.

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