The effect of religion on risky sexual behavior among college students

Leslie Gordon Simons, Callie Harbin Burt, F. Ryan Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This study focuses on the mechanisms whereby religiosity influences adolescent involvement in risky sexual behavior. The study hypotheses were tested using structural equation modeling with a sample of approximately 2,100 undergraduates enrolled at two large state universities. Religious respondents reported a more conservative view of the circumstances under which sexual behavior is acceptable. This conservative perspective on sex was associated with older age at first intercourse and an increased likelihood that first intercourse was with a fiancé or spouse. Both of these outcomes, in turn, reduced the probability of having had a large number of subsequent sexual partners. In addition, there was a strong direct association between sexually permissive attitudes and a greater number of sexual partners. While these findings held for both males and females, we also found several sex differences. For example, negative feelings about first intercourse predicted an increased number of sexual partners for females, but was unrelated to number of partners for males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-485
Number of pages19
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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