Religion, Sex, and Family: The Role of Family Religiosity and Sex Communication in Emerging Adults’ Sexual Behaviors
Quinn, Deirdre Ann
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Religion plays an important role in many people’s lives and can impact both physical and mental health. A growing body of research has examined potential links between religiosity and health behaviors and outcomes in adolescents and young adults, in particular adolescents’ sexual risk behaviors. Consequences of sexual risk represent a major health concern in the United States, particularly among adolescents and young adults. Risky sexual behavior is common among college students; campus “hook-up” culture promotes casual and unplanned sexual encounters (Burdette, Hill, Ellison, & Glenn, 2009; Grello, Welsh, & Harper, 2006), and students often perceive potentially risky sexual behaviors (including oral sex and anal sex) to be less intimate (and therefore more allowable) than sexual intercourse (Chambers, 2007; Kelly & Kalichman, 2002; H. Lyons, Manning, Giordano, & Longmore, 2013). Parents have consistently been identified as the most important source of religious influence, both in childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood. Research also shows that parents can play an important role in adolescents’ sexual health decision making through their parent-teen relationships, parenting practices, and communication about sex and sexual risk. The current study of undergraduate students (n=608) extends the literature in order to improve our understanding of the relationships between multi-dimensional aspects of family religiosity and family sex communication and college students’ religiosity, attitudes about sex, sexual activity, and sexual risk and protective behaviors. Based on social learning theory’s principles of observation, communication, and social interaction, this study examined the ways in which college students’ religiosity and attitudes about sex, and ultimately their sexual risk and protective behaviors, are associated with family modeling of religiosity and family communication about sex. Findings suggest that a higher degree of family religiosity is significantly associated with aspects of students’ sexual activity and sexual risk, while more comprehensive family communication about sex is significantly associated with some aspects of students’ sexual activity. Potential mediation of parental monitoring during high school and students’ current sex attitudes is also explored.