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Exposure to sexual media and college students’ sexual risk-taking and sexual regret

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Title: Exposure to sexual media and college students’ sexual risk-taking and sexual regret
Author(s): Zhang, Yuanyuan
Director of Research: Tewksbury, David H.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Harrison, Kristen
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Tewksbury, David H.; Wilson, Barbara J.; Dixon, Travis L.
Department / Program: Communication
Discipline: Communication
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Sexual Media Sexual Risk-Taking Sexual Regret Sexual Health Sexual Socialization
Abstract: Sexual risk-taking represents a significant health problem among college students. Although media may play an important role in college students’ sexual risk-taking, research in this area has been sparse. Using social cognitive theory as the theoretical framework, this dissertation aimed to achieve three goals. First, the study sought to examine how exposure to sexual content in six media (i.e., television, songs, music videos, movies watched at home, movies watched in the theater, and magazines) might be related to college students’ sexual risk-taking. Second, the study investigated a list of moderators that might influence the relationship between media exposure and sexual risk-taking. Five moderators (i.e., gender [femaleness], race [whiteness], sensation seeking, positive premarital sexual attitudes, and endorsement of the sexual double standard) were proposed to strengthen the relationship, and three moderators (i.e., school performance, religiosity, and parental monitoring) were proposed to weaken the relationship. Lastly, the study explored whether sexual media exposure may be linked to sexual regret indirectly through its effect on sexual risk-taking. The main project was an online survey completed by 561college students. To assist the investigation, three subprojects were conducted beforehand. Subproject 1 employed focus group interviews to generate a measure of sexual risk-taking (i.e., hedonistic, socially destructive, voyeuristic, and nonprotective risk-taking) to be used in the main project. This new measure included a comprehensive list of risky sexual behaviors that went beyond the risks of unintended pregnancy and STIs typically examined in previous research. Subproject 2 conducted a survey to obtain sexual intensity ratings for the media offerings to be used in the main project. The last subproject analyzed the content of the same media offerings to determine the accuracy of the ratings obtained from subproject 2. The analyses of the main project revealed several main findings. First, exposure to sexual magazines predicted more hedonistic and voyeuristic risk-taking among college students. In fact, it was the only sexual media variable that had a direct relationship with sexual risk-taking. Second, moderating effects were found for sexual music video viewing, sexual song listening, and sexual magazine reading. While sensation seeking and positive premarital sexual attitudes functioned to strengthen the relationship between sexual media exposure and sexual risk-taking, gender (femaleness), school performance, and religiosity functioned to weaken the relationship. Third, sexual magazine reading predicted the most sexual risk-taking (i.e., hedonistic, voyeuristic, and nonprotective risk-taking), directly or indirectly through the moderating effects. Nonprotective risk-taking had the most predictors. Finally, sexual regret was not related to any sexual risk-taking subscales. Therefore, the mediating effect of sexual risk-taking on the relationship between media exposure and sexual regret was not supported. Implications of these findings and suggestions for future research were discussed.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34430
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Yuanyuan Zhang
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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