Young women at risk: Sexuality at a time of transition in Ukraine

Date of Completion

January 2008


Anthropology, Cultural|Anthropology, Medical and Forensic|Women's Studies




Ukraine provides an example of what has been termed a “societal risk situation” in which economic collapse and the deterioration of the healthcare system coincides with changes in norms and values among many social groups. This dissertation critically assesses the impact of post-independence economic, social, and political changes on the health and sexual risk behavior of young women in Uzhhorod, Ukraine. Utilizing an ecological systems approach as a framework, the dissertation identifies and assesses the various micro-level individual, social and macro-level contextual factors that have been associated with young women's sexual risk behavior in Ukraine. This perspective emphasizes the principle that human development and behavior takes place within the context of relationships and attempts to understand the interplay of multi-level personal, situational, and broader political, economic and sociocultural factors that interact and shape an individual's behavior.^ This dissertation draws on findings from fieldwork conducted among young adult Ukrainian women, 18-28 years of age living in the western border city of Uzhhorod, Ukraine that examined the challenges and coping strategies associated with young women's adaptation to the post-Soviet sociocultural and economic environment of Uzhhorod. A mixed-methods approach which included qualitative (participant observation, freelist elicitation, key informant and in-depth interviews) and quantitative (structured survey instrument) methods was used to gather the data. Ethnographic and survey data suggest that the socioeconomic crisis has forced young women to mobilize available coping resources, including sexuality, for survival and advancement in post-Soviet Ukraine. The research results are an opportunity to gain an understanding of young women's sexual knowledge and attitudes and assess the sexual behavior of young women in Uzhhorod and the consequences of their sexuality in light of the current HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine.^