Birds and Bees

Kevin Lewis

February 02, 2010

Everything's Better in Moderation: Young Women's Gender Role Attitudes and Risky Sexual Behavior

Tamara Leech
Journal of Adolescent Health, forthcoming

Purpose: This study examines the association between gender role attitudes and risky sexual behavior among young women. Previous studies have posed seemingly contradictory arguments: that either traditional attitudes or egalitarian attitudes are associated with riskier behavior.

Methods: Data are based on the children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, representing 520 sexually active 18-19-year-old women. Propensity radius matching was used to assess differences in rates of multiple sexual partners and sex outside of a committed relationship.

Results: Relative to moderate gender role attitudes, both egalitarian gender role attitudes and traditional gender role attitudes are associated with higher rates of risky sexual behavior. Both women with egalitarian role attitudes and those with traditional role attitudes have about a 10% higher prevalence of risky behavior compared to women with more moderate gender role attitudes.

Conclusion: Existing, seemingly contradictory contentions about the relationship between gender role attitudes and risky sexual behavior may be more coherent than they seem. By shifting focus from risk to protection, the results suggest that moderate gender role attitudes are protective against risky sexual behavior. Future studies should investigate the causal mechanisms and intervention implications of this protective relationship.


Ethnic Differences in Sexual Attitudes of U.S. College Students: Gender, Acculturation, and Religiosity Factors

Tierney Ahrold & Cindy Meston
Archives of Sexual Behavior, February 2010, Pages 190-202

Although it has been hypothesized that culture and religion play an important role in sexuality, the relative roles of acculturation and religiosity on ethnic differences in sexual attitudes have not been often empirically explored. The present study assessed differences in sexual attitudes in Euro-American, Asian, and Hispanic American populations using measures of acculturation to analyze the relative effects of heritage and mainstream cultures, as well as religiosity, within each ethnic group. A total of 1,415 college students (67% Euro-American, 16% Hispanic, 17% Asian; 32% men, 68% women) completed questionnaires which assessed attitudes towards homosexuality, gender role traditionality, casual sex, and extramarital sex. In concordance with previous studies, Asians reported more conservative sexual attitudes than did their Hispanic and Euro-American peers. Hispanics reported sexual attitudes similar to that of Euro-Americans. For both Hispanic and Asians, higher acculturation predicted sexual attitudes similar to that of Euro-Americans. For Asian, Hispanic, and Euro-American women, there was a significant interaction between intrinsic religiosity and spirituality such that the relationship between conservativism of sexual attitudes and intrinsic religiosity was stronger at higher levels of spirituality. In Euro-Americans and Asians, intrinsic religiosity and religious fundamentalism strongly predicted conservative sexual attitudes; while still significant, these relationships were not as pronounced in the Hispanic sample, implying an ethnic-by-religious effect. Novel to this study, acculturation did not mediate the relationship between religiosity and sexual attitudes, indicating that ethnic differences in religiosity effects were distinct from acculturation.


Abortion and Mental Health: Evaluating the Evidence

Brenda Major, Mark Appelbaum, Linda Beckman, Mary Ann Dutton, Nancy Felipe Russo & Carolyn West
American Psychologist, December 2009, Pages 863-890

The authors evaluated empirical research addressing the relationship between induced abortion and women's mental health. Two issues were addressed: (a) the relative risks associated with abortion compared with the risks associated with its alternatives and (b) sources of variability in women's responses following abortion. This article reflects and updates the report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion (2008). Major methodological problems pervaded most of the research reviewed. The most rigorous studies indicated that within the United States, the relative risk of mental health problems among adult women who have a single, legal, first-trimester abortion of an unwanted pregnancy is no greater than the risk among women who deliver an unwanted pregnancy. Evidence did not support the claim that observed associations between abortion and mental health problems are caused by abortion per se as opposed to other preexisting and co-occurring risk factors. Most adult women who terminate a pregnancy do not experience mental health problems. Some women do, however. It is important that women's varied experiences of abortion be recognized, validated, and understood.


Adolescents' Reports of Communication With Their Parents About Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Birth Control: 1988, 1995, and 2002

Anna Robert & Freya Sonenstein
Journal of Adolescent Health, forthcoming

Purpose: We examine trends in adolescents' reports of discussion with parents about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and birth control methods from 1988 to 2002.

Methods: Data from the 1988 and 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males, and the 1988, 1995, and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth were analyzed to evaluate changes in discussions of female adolescents with parents about birth control methods and STDs, and changes in male adolescent discussions with parents about birth control methods. The sample includes never married males and females aged 15-17 years.

Results: In 2002, fewer female adolescents reported discussion with a parent about STD or birth control methods than in 1995. The share of female adolescents in 2002 reporting no discussion of either topic with their parents increased by almost half compared to 1995. Patterns across time in male adolescents' discussions of birth control methods with their parents appear stable.

Conclusions: The recent decline in female adolescent reports of parent-communication about birth control and STDs, and the increase in female adolescent reports of no discussion of either topic suggest that public health officials, educators, and clinicians should invigorate their efforts to encourage parents to talk with their children about STDs and birth control.


Race Differences in Cohort Effects on Non-Marital Fertility in the United States

Jean Stockard, Jo Anna Gray, Robert O'Brien & Joe Stone
Social Forces, March 2009, Pages 1449-1479

We employ newly developed methods to disentangle age, period and cohort effects on non-marital fertility ratios from 1972 through 2002 for black and white women ages 20-44 in the United States. We focus on three cohort factors: family structure, school enrollment and the sex ratio. For both blacks and whites, cohorts with less traditional family structures have higher NFRs. Other results differ by race. The impact of school enrollment on NFRs is significantly negative for whites, but significantly positive for blacks. The impact of sex ratio is significantly negative for blacks, but insignificant for whites. If black women and white women had cohort characteristics typical of the other group, age-specific NFRs for black women would decline markedly, while those for whites would increase markedly.


Neighborhood Poverty and Nonmarital Fertility: Spatial and Temporal Dimensions

Scott South & Kyle Crowder
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2010, Pages 89-104

Data from 4,855 respondents to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics were used to examine spatial and temporal dimensions of the effect of neighborhood poverty on teenage premarital childbearing. Although high poverty in the immediate neighborhood increased the risk of becoming an unmarried parent, high poverty in surrounding neighborhoods reduced this risk. The effect of local neighborhood poverty was especially pronounced when surrounding neighborhoods were economically advantaged. Measuring exposure to neighborhood poverty over the childhood life course yielded stronger effects than measuring exposure at a single age. Neither racial differences in the level of poverty in proximate neighborhoods nor racial differences in neighborhood poverty over the childhood life course explained the racial difference in nonmarital fertility.


Genetic and Environmental Influences on Risky Sexual Behaviour and its Relationship With Personality

B. Zietsch, K. Verweij, J. Bailey, M. Wright & N. Martin
Behavior Genetics, January 2010, Pages 12-21

Risky sexual behaviour is a major health issue in society, and it is therefore important to understand factors that may predispose individuals to such behaviour. Research suggests a link between risky sexual behaviour and personality, but the basis of this link remains unknown. Hans Eysenck proposed that personality is related to sexual behaviour via biological underpinnings of both. Here we test the viability of this perspective by analysing data from identical and non-identical twins (N = 4,904) who completed a questionnaire assessing sexual attitudes and behaviour as well as personality. Using genetic modelling of the twin data, we found that risky sexual behaviour was significantly positively correlated with Impulsivity (r = .27), Extraversion (r = .24), Psychoticism (r = .20), and Neuroticism (r = .09), and that in each case the correlation was due primarily to overlapping genetic influences. These findings suggest that the genetic influences that shape our personality may also predispose us to risky sexual behaviour.


Trends in Birth Weight and Gestational Length Among Singleton Term Births in the United States: 1990-2005

Sara Donahue, Ken Kleinman, Matthew Gillman & Emily Oken
Obstetrics & Gynecology, February 2010, Pages 357-364

Objective: To estimate changes over time in birth weight for gestational age and in gestational length among term singleton neonates born from 1990 to 2005.

Methods: We used data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics for 36,827,828 singleton neonates born at 37-41 weeks of gestation, 1990-2005. We examined trends in birth weight, birth weight for gestational age, large and small for gestational age, and gestational length in the overall population and in a low-risk subgroup defined by maternal age, race or ethnicity, education, marital status, smoking, gestational weight gain, delivery route, and obstetric care characteristics.

Results: In 2005, compared with 1990, we observed decreases in birth weight (-52 g in the overall population, -79 g in a homogenous low-risk subgroup) and large for gestational age birth (-1.4% overall, -2.2% in the homogenous subgroup) that were steeper after 1999 and persisted in regression analyses adjusted for maternal and neonate characteristics, gestational length, cesarean delivery, and induction of labor. Decreases in mean gestational length (-0.34 weeks overall) were similar regardless of route of delivery or induction of labor.

Conclusion: Recent decreases in fetal growth among U.S., term, singleton neonates were not explained by trends in maternal and neonatal characteristics, changes in obstetric practices, or concurrent decreases in gestational length.


Does Premarital Cohabitation Predict Subsequent Marital Stability and Marital Quality? A Meta-Analysis

Anita Jose, Daniel O'Leary & Anne Moyer
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2010, Pages 105-116

Cohabitation with a romantic partner has become common in recent decades. This meta-analysis examined the link between premarital cohabitation and marital stability ( k = 16) and marital quality ( k = 12). Cohabitation had a significant negative association with both marital stability and marital quality. The negative predictive effect on marital stability, however, did not remain when only cohabitation with the eventual marital partner was analyzed, suggesting that these cohabitors may attach more long-term meaning to living together. Moderator analyses demonstrated that effects of cohabitation have remained consistent over time, despite the fact that cohabitation has become more normative.


Human Sexuality Education in One Florida County Public School District: What do Parents Want and What are Students Learning?

Diane Straub, Rachel Stewart-Campbell, Tara Ochoa, Sabrinia Butts, Amanda Schall & Bendu Cooper Walker
Journal of Adolescent Health, February 2010, Page S75

Purpose: Given recent funding changes and questions regarding the implementation of human sexuality education in the Hillsborough County School District, the Connect to Protect® Tampa Bay Coalition administered surveys to local students and parents to identify what students are currently learning in school and understand parents' preferences for sexuality education for their children.

Methods: Anonymous pen and paper surveys were administered at various community events, including multiple back-to-school and health fairs, in Hillsborough County, FL and during a regional Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting. The survey referred to abstinence-only education as curricula that teach sexual abstinence outside of marriage to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI), while abstinence plus teaches abstinence as well as providing fact-based and age appropriate information about contraception and HIV/STI prevention.

Results: A total of 446 participants responded to the survey, including 261 parents and 185 students. Demographics: 95% of parents had at least one child attending school in Hillsborough County, while 85% of students attended school in Hillsborough County. Parent responses: Percent of parental support for the respective type of education are as follows: 79% some form of sex education, 35% abstinence-only education, 68% abstinence plus/comprehensive education, and 12% would not support human sexuality being taught in schools. Percent of parents who would support teaching of respective topics in their child's school are as follows: 80% sexual abstinence , 69% condom use, 69% birth control methods, 84% HIV and STDs information, 69% communication skills, 68% human anatomy and reproductive information, and 69% gender and sexual orientation issues. Student responses: Percent of students that reported receiving instruction during school time regarding the following topics are as follows: 56%- sexual abstinence , 63 %- how babies are made, 77%- the parts of the body, 56% -how the body works, 63%- preventing pregnancy, 69%- preventing HIV/AIDS, 59% -preventing STDs, 54% - how to talk to parents about sex, 49% - obtaining free health information in their area; 10% reported not learning about any of the aforementioned topics in school.

Conclusions: This study shows a majority of parents will support human sexuality education in schools and are in favor of an abstinence plus/comprehensive curriculum. Regarding the students, given the high-risk population surveyed, a relatively smaller number reported learning about topics relevant to human sexuality. Based on the results of the study, an evaluation of the curriculum and review of the implementation strategy would be supported by the majority of parents and may help to improve instruction in human sexuality education in Hillsborough County.

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