Exploring the Relationship Between Adolescent Media Use, Sexual Socialization and Sexual Behavior
Myriad studies describe the link between media use and youth sexual attitudes, intentions, and behaviors, but little is known about its influence on sexual development across adolescence, and about how factors, such as race, gender, socioeconomic status and sexual attraction moderate these relationships and further influence adolescent sexual development. Longitudinal studies are needed that offer insight into how media use relates to sexual socialization and behavior as adolescents move through the life course toward adulthood. For this three-paper dissertation, I used publicly-available, secondary data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to better understand the role of media in adolescent sexual socialization and behavior. Broadly, I asked the following research question: what is the role of media in adolescent sexual socialization and sexual behavior, and relative to other social factors? Chapter 1 provided an overview of topics addressed in this dissertation. In Chapter 2, life course perspectives, social ecological frameworks, and media effects theories formed the foundation of the culminating bioecological framework for adolescent media sexual socialization that served as one of the conceptual frameworks for my analyses. In Chapter 3, I examined the relationship between early adolescent media use and various measures of sexual socialization later in adolescence. Chapter 4 explored how race, gender and interactions of these social factors influence the relationship between adolescent media use and the initiation of vaginal, oral, and anal sex behaviors in opposite sex-attracted individuals across adolescence into early adulthood. Chapter 5 built on Chapter 4’s analysis, but focused on same sex-attracted individuals. Chapter 6 provided an overview of findings, describing the overall insights gleaned across analyses. Findings showed that media use early in adolescence is linked to some, but not all measures of sexual socialization later in adolescence. When race, socioeconomic status, and gender are considered, adolescent media use is linked to the timing of initiation of some sexual behavior for some adolescents, but not others. This dissertation helped to clarify the unique and complicated role that media plays – and for whom – in developing, socializing, and priming youth for sex. I considered the notion that media is influential in the lives of youth, but to varying degrees at the intersections of race, gender, and other sociodemographic factors. This dissertation contributed to the literature by providing a more comprehensive and contextualized examination of media, sexual socialization, and sexual behavior in adolescence using longitudinal data and quantitative analyses.