By Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. and D. Paul Sullins, Ph.D.
Women in always-intact marriages who worship at least weekly are more likely to have had fewer lifetime sexual partners than those in other family structures who never worship. According to the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), women in always-intact marriages who attend religious services at least weekly have had, on average, 2.42 lifetime sexual partners, followed by women in always-intact marriages who never worship (4.71), those in other family structures who worship at least weekly (5.51), and those in other family structures who never worship (9.07).
Examining present family structure only, women in intact cohabiting relationships have had, on average, 2.33 lifetime sexual partners, followed by women in always-intact marriages (3.23), those in cohabiting stepfamilies (6.34), those in married stepfamilies (6.98), those who have always been single (7.44), and those who are divorced (8.18).
Examining religious attendance only, people who worship at least weekly have had, on average, 4.33 lifetime sexual partners, followed by those who worship between one and three times a month (6.25), those who attend religious services less than once a month (7.56), and those who never attend religious services (8.84).
Related Insights from Other Studies
Several other studies corroborate the direction of these findings. Jay Teachman of Western Washington University reported that women who engaged in multiple premarital intimate relationships increased their risk of divorce.
Jason Weeden of Arizona State University and colleagues also found that religious attendance correlates to a marriage-centered sexual and reproductive strategy.
Wade C. Rowatt of Baylor University and David P. Schmitt of Bradley University reported that those who view religion as an end, rather than as a means to another personal or social end, show less interest in having multiple sex partners.
As the evidence indicates, women in always-intact marriages who worship at least weekly have fewer sexual partners than those in most other family structures who worship less frequently.
Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council. Dr. Sullins is an associate professor of sociology at The Catholic University of America .
 These charts draw on data collected by the National Survey of Family Growth, Cycle 6 (2002). The sample consists of women between the ages of 35 and 44 and numbers 2,479.
 Jay Teachman, "Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation, and the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution among Women," Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (2003): 444-55.
 Jason Weeden, Adam B. Cohen, and Douglas T. Kenrick, "Religious Attendance as Reproductive Support," Evolution and Human Behavior 29 (2008): 327-34.
 Wade C. Rowatt and David P. Schmitt, "Associations between Religious Orientation and Varieties of Sexual Experience," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2003): 455-65.