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Gendered powerlessness in at-risk adolescent and young women: an empirical model.

  • Author(s): Chiaramonte, Danielle
  • Miller, Robin Lin
  • Lee, KyungSook
  • Santiago Rivera, Olga J
  • Acevedo-Polakovich, Ignacio D
  • McGirr, Sara
  • Porter, Jennifer L
  • Ellen, Jonathan M
  • Boyer, Cherrie B
  • Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions
  • et al.

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In the United States, youth aged 13-24 comprised approximately 21% of new HIV infections in 2017; 13% of these infections occurred among women, the majority of whom (86%) acquired HIV through heterosexual contact (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019a. HIV and youth. Retrieved from, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019b. HIV among women. Retrieved from We fit and validated a developmentally appropriate empirical model of Connell's Theory of Gender and Power (Connell, R. W. 1987. Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, Connell, R. W. 2013. Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons) in a sample of young women and assessed whether gendered powerlessness reflected a multidimensional higher-order latent factor, as the theory implies. Anonymous computer-assisted interviews were administered to at-risk, sexually active young women (N = 1,101). Factor analyses and structural equation modeling were used to determine the dimensionality of gendered powerlessness. Associations with condom use were examined to validate the model. We fit a three-component model of gendered powerlessness, but not a higher-order latent factor. We observed that high scores on two dimensions of gendered powerlessness - cathexis and sexual division of power - were associated with lower likelihood of condom use. Our three-component model helps elucidate the role that components of gendered powerlessness play in young women's health behaviors and underscores the need for measures tailored to young women at high risk of contracting HIV.

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