U.S. Attitudes toward Adolescent Sexual Activity: A Feminist Engagement with the Second Demographic Transition Open Access

Jayne, Paula E. (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/kh04dq113?locale=en


U.S. Attitudes toward Adolescent Sexual Activity:
A Feminist Engagement with the Second Demographic Transition

I explore how opinions in the United States differ regarding adolescent sexuality. Given that
U.S adolescents currently have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections and teen
pregnancy among high-income countries, continued research on attitudes surrounding
adolescent sexuality is essential. My project combines a statistical analysis of the National
Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) with a feminist engagement with the theory of the second
demographic transition (SDT) to explore predictors of attitudes toward adolescent sexual
activity within the United States. The SDT predicts a connection between individuals'
decisions regarding fertility and family formation and their social attitudes and behaviors;
although not previously applied to attitudes toward adolescent sexuality, the SDT provides a
useful framework for this research. I use data from the 2002 National Survey of Family
Growth, a recurring multi-stage, cluster sampled, and weighted survey, to explore a
nationally representative sample of the attitudes of 15-44 year olds toward adolescent sexual
activity in the United States. Exploratory factor analysis and ordinal logistic regression
reveals significant relationships between one's age, sex, marital and cohabitation status, age at
first sex, age at first birth, number of current children, religious activity and one's attitudes
toward adolescent sexual activity. I find that the most important predictor of attitudes
toward adolescent sexual activity is the degree of religious commitment. I suggest that in
order to decrease unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease among adolescents,
it is important that those working toward these goals learn to hold open and honest
discussions around sexuality and questions of ethics. These conversations, while not easy,
may provide a way to move through the "cultural war" divides suggested by the second
demographic transition to find areas of shared concerns. I conclude that in fact there is no
way to formulate value-neutral public policy on sexuality, and thus that there is a continued
need for public health leaders and religious leaders to bring their unique strengths to a shared
table in order to improve the health and sexual well-being of adolescents in the United States.

Table of Contents


Introduction 1
Setting the Stage: Adolescent Sexual Health in the United States 3
School-based Sexual Education and Values 13
Outline of Dissertation 20
Theoretical Framework 21
Statement of Positionality 23
Instrument and Analysis 26
Research Questions and Hypotheses 27
Significance of Study 28
Conclusion 29

Theory and Literature Review 30
Demographic Transition Theory 31
Usefulness of the Second Demographic Transition to this Project 42
What is Missed within the Theoretical Framework of the SDT? 49

Methods 53
Introduction of Data Source 53
Selection of Participants 55
Data Collection 57
Instrumentation 59
Data Analysis 60

Findings 72
Stratified Analysis of Independent Variables by Outcome Variable 72
Correlation Analysis 88
Exploratory Factor Analysis 93
Ordinal Logistic Regression Analysis 97

Discussion 103
The Use of the SDT to Examine Attitudes toward Adolescent Sexual Activity 103
Unexpected Results 106
Measures which were Significant but were not Included in the Final Analysis 107
Findings of Interest 109
Religion and Attitudes toward Adolescent Sexual Activity 112
Limitations 116

Conclusion 121

Bibliography 127

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files