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

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Leech, Tamara G. 2010. "Everything's Better in Moderation: Young Women's Gender Role Attitudes and Risky Sexual Behavior." Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(5): 437-443.

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.

DOI:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.10.012 (Full Text)

Country of focus: United States.

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