Sexy Media Does Not Lead To Teenage Sex

Clearly, the onset of sexual activity cannot be blamed on one factor when so many other factors are involved. However, wouldn’t it be great to just blame media? Parents actively shielding their children from adult-oriented material on TV should relax.  Well, maybe a little. A pair of American professors reanalyzed the results of a previous study which suggested that constant exposure to sexual material in media influenced teenagers to engage in sexual activities. This time, the experts discovered that a number of competing factors such as parent influence, religion, and school have a stronger influence than television.

1017 middle school students from the southeastern United States were included in the original study.  Separated by race, gender, socioeconomic status, and parental education level, the students conducted self interviews that included questions about their sexual behavior.  These same students were interviewed again two years later for the reanalysis.

In order to assess the connection between sexual exposure and the onset of sexual activity, researchers discarded the datasets of students who were sexually active before the original study began. 888 of the original students were included in the reanalysis. During the second interview, the students were questioned about additional lifestyle variables that could also have accounted for their sexual activity, including academic success, parental monitoring, religious affiliation, and parental acceptance of their sexuality.

Researchers then assessed the teenagers’ favorite TV shows, magazines, and songs for their sexual content.  Based on the frequency of sexual material presented in these media sources and the students’ monthly use of these items, they calculated the frequency of exposure to sexual material for each student.

Initially, researchers found the same results as the original study: students who were exposed to more sexual material in media were more likely to have sex at an early age.  However, when the lifestyle variables were included, the previously reported relationship was unfounded, showing instead that students with similar lifestyles were likely to have similar sexual experiences. In other words, personal experiences and childhood rearing are more likely to influence sexual behavior than media exposure.

Tags from the story
,