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Sexual Abstinence: the role of religion, peers and family
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Previous research on sexual behavior and attitudes has for the most part focused on behaviors among sexually active college students, to the neglect of the sexually abstinent segment of this population. This research looks at this group evaluating the formal and informal aids students utilize in remaining sexually abstinent. Specifically, the influence of parents, religion, and peers on sexually abstinent attitudes and behavior among college students at a large southwestern university are discussed. Quantitative data from a computer-administered sexual knowledge, attitude and behavior survey are used to explore the influences which correlated with the sexually abstinent status of a sample of 249 college students. Responses from sexually active college students are discussed in comparison to the sexually abstinent. The findings are evaluated and explained within the frameworks of two social psychological theories which discuss social networks and socialization: Social Bonding Theory as discussed by Hirschi (I 969) and Differential Association, as formulated by Sutherland and discussed later by Akers (I 977). Specifically, I examined the influence of peers, family, religion. I hypothesized that all three influences (both individually and combined) would be positively correlated to a student's sexually abstinent status, especially when living in a population which seems to support participation in sexual behaviors. The findings indicated that those who were defined as sexually abstinent using the behavior measure, felt close to their parents, had peers who supported their sexually abstinent behavior, and were highly religious. The sexually active college students indicated they had who supported their sexual behavior, and were less likely to be involved in personal religious behaviors. This was in agreement with the theoretical ideas purported by Social Bonding and Differential Association. Using the behavioral measure, support for the hypothesis regarding the combined influence of the three independent variables was not significant for females on any of the factors except peer acceptance of sexual behavior. Males, however were found to be significantly affected by every variable except parental attachment. Our theories were not able to explain these sex category disparities.
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Includes bibliographical references: p. 60-66.
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Hunter-Holmes, Pamela (1997). Sexual Abstinence: the role of religion, peers and family. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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