Identifying Mediators of the Influence of Family Factors on Risky Sexual Behavior


Participation in risky sexual behaviors has many deleterious consequences and is a source of concern for parents as well as
practitioners, researchers, and public policy makers. Past research has examined the effect of family structure and supportive
parenting on risky sexual behaviors among emerging adults. In the present study, we attempt to identify the mediators that
explain this relationship. Using survey data from a sample of over 2,000 college students (1,297 females and 780 males) we
use structural equation modeling to investigate the role of commitment to marriage, desired characteristics in an intimate
partner, and sociosexuality in linking the influence of family structure and supportive parenting to risky sexual behaviors.
Results indicate that respondents from continuously married families were more committed to marriage, and this commitment
reduced the probability of risky sexual behavior both directly, as well as indirectly through its negative impact on unrestricted
sociosexuality. On the other hand, respondents who reported having supportive parents rated sensitivity and similarity of
values as more important in a mate than physical attractiveness and sexual compatibility. This approach to mate selection
reduces unrestricted sociosexuality and, in turn, risky sexual behavior. Even after taking our mediators into account, there
is still a direct effect of family factors on risky sexual behavior. Gender differences in the pattern of findings are discussed
and directions for future research are identified.

  • Content Type Journal Article
  • Category Original Paper
  • Pages 1-11
  • DOI 10.1007/s10826-012-9598-9
  • Authors
    • Leslie Gordon Simons, Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
    • Callie Harbin Burt, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA
    • Rachel Blyskal Tambling, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
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