Emerging adulthood often entails heightened risk-taking with potential life-long consequences, and research on risk behaviors is needed to guide prevention programming, particularly in under-served and difficult to reach populations. This study evaluated the utility of Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS), a peer-driven methodology that corrects limitations of snowball sampling, to reach at-risk African American emerging adults from disadvantaged urban communities. Initial “seed” participants from the target group recruited peers, who then recruited their peers in an iterative process (110 males, 234 females; M age = 18.86 years). Structured field interviews assessed common health risk factors, including substance use, overweight/obesity, and sexual behaviors. Established gender-and age-related associations with risk factors were replicated, and sample risk profiles and prevalence estimates compared favorably with matched samples from representative U.S. national surveys. Findings supported the use of RDS as a sampling method and grassroots platform for research and prevention with community-dwelling risk groups.


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pp. 194-208
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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