Mental Health

Does Media Influence Teens' Sexual Behaviour?

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Efforts to link media use to adolescents' sexual initiation have produced somewhat inconsistent results, perhaps as a result of the limited framing of the question.

A study published in a recent issue of Development Psychology sought to expand current approaches by sampling college students instead of high school students, by investigating a range of sexual behaviors and media formats, and by testing a model that featured sexual cognitions as mediators. This social learning model was tested with a sample of 796 heterosexual, male college students who reported on their regular consumption of 4 media (prime-time TV programs, music videos, movies, and men's magazines); their attitudes toward abstinence, the male sexual role, and nonrelational sex; their perceptions of peer sexual behavior; and several aspects of their sexual behavior (e.g., number of sexual partners).

Findings revealed strong support for the experimental mediated model, with exposure to men's magazines and movies contributing most strongly to their sexual cognitions, and with men's cognitions, in turn, contributing heavily to their sexual behavior.

Some direct connections from media use to sexual behavior also emerged. Together, the findings provide insight into both potential mechanisms for and new approaches to addressing this issue.

For more information on the study.