Study finds that friends' religiosity is associated with delayed first sex of religious and secular youth. Additionally, the strength of the relationship between friends' religiosity and first sex depends on the extent to which an adolescent's friends are friends with each other.
Past research has shown that individual religiosity influences sexual behavior and that religious support can increase consistency between personal religiosity and behavior. Previous studies have also shown the importance of friends and peer influences that come with one's position within the group of friends. This particular study sought to examine the association between friend's religiosity and first sex. Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (AddHealth) and a sample size of 3,657 students. Researchers found that sexual intercourse was less likely among adolescents who: feel close to their parents, live in two-parent families, and report good grades. Conversely, sex is more common among adolescents who have more friends outside of their school, and who have parents or friends who approve of premarital sex. In regards to friends' religiosity, the effect of friends' private religiosity on delaying first sex was significant and this effect was further enhanced in adolescents who were embedded in dense social networks in which teens' friends were friends with one another. This may be due to the fact that teens in dense religious groups are aware that monitoring within the group is high and that early sexual behaviors violate the group's religious norms. Interestingly, friend's religiosity appeared to be a stronger predictor of first sex than living in a two-parent family or being close to one's parents. Finally, the study showed that the relationship between friends' religiosity and sexual debut depends less on how much time an adolescent spends with his/her friends or how well liked he/she is by religious teens, and more on whether his/her religious friends are friends with each other.1
1Friends Religiosity and First Sex, Social Science Research, 2006, pp. 924-947.
Printed with permission from the Concerned Parents Report.