INTRODUCTIONThe Relationship between Sexual Activity and Academic Performance
In life, good academic performance is vital for entrance into good high schools, colleges, and graduate or medical schools. In fact, grades, the formal measure of academic performance, become important as early as pre-school and remain important through the process of seeking employment, as many employers request transcripts along with job applications. One’s academic performance is measured for a significant portion of his or her life. Past grades play an influential role in critical decisions made by others about one’s future. In society today, academic performance plays an essential role in many peoples’ lives. It is important to determine and understand the influences of academic performance on other aspects of everyday life.
Sexual activity is a part of many people’s lives. Once considered taboo, sexual activity among young people is becoming commonplace. It is thought that sexual activity may have some relationship with academic performance. What, if any, relationship exists between sexual activity and academic performance? How do the two relate? Is the correlation positive or negative? What explanation lies behind the relationship between sexual activity and academic performance? Perhaps students are too busy pursuing sexual intercourse to study, or, on the other hand, students make better use of their time due to their pursuit of sexual intercourse.
Current research has been done on information on the sexual activity on college campuses. A longitudinal study by Schvaneveldt, Miller, Berry, and Lee (2001) found a negative correlation between the age of one’s first sexual intercourse and one’s academic performance. Bjerklie (2003) states that among college students living away from home, 56% are sexually active. People often over or under estimate what they believe is happening in their environment, especially in terms of their peers. For example, a clear majority of college students polled at a major university believed their peers had had sex with multiple partners over the past year; however, a small percentage had multiple partners Khoury (1998). This study brings up the issue of honesty. If a student inflates his or her responses in order to stay on par with incorrect perceptions about his or her peers’ sexual activity, it makes reliable research in the area of sexual activity problematic.
Research concerning sexual activity is difficult to perform. First, as with just about everything, people’s definitions of sex change from person to person, and across gender (Bogart, Cecil, Wagstaff, Pinkerton, and Abramson, 2000). Bogart et al. found that sex was usually defined as “vaginal or anal intercourse” and that some people also define “oral intercourse” as sex (200). The need for clearly defined operational definitions is extremely important when dealing with a topic such as sexual activity. Knox, Sturdivant, and Zusman (2001) found that women reported to be more probable than men to have stricter requirements about their potential sexual partner met before having sexual intercourse with that person.
Further research shows dating has a negative impact on academic performance. Quatman et al. (2001) found a negative correlation between dating frequency and academic achievement in high school students. Additionally, Quatman et al. also found dating frequency and academic motivation to be negatively correlated as well (2001). Although this study was done with high school subjects, it is still indicates the presence of an interaction between dating and grade point average. Research has been done on the age at which one has sexual activity. The younger the age at which one has sexual intercourse is negatively correlated with lowered academic performance and goals (Schvaneveldt, Miller, Berry, and Lee 2001).
Research states that the early initiation of sexual intercourse is related to poor academic performance (Schvaneveldt et al., 2001), and that interpretations of sexual language vary from person to person (Bogart et al., 2000). The purpose of this study is to find a relationship between sexual activity and academic performance among college students by using a survey with operationally defined terms. It is hypothesized that students who are sexually active will perform differently academically than students who are not sexually active. It is also hypothesized that students who are sexually active and in relationships will perform differently than students who are sexually active and not in relationships.
The study consisted of 80 undergraduate students at Loyola University of New Orleans. Students’ rank varied from freshman to senior and their ages varied from 17 to 22 years. Students identified themselves as heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. Eleven males and 69 females participated in the study. Students either signed up for times to have the survey administered to them on a signed up sheet posted on the psychology bulletin board or were recruited in meetings of different student organizations.
MATERIALS AND MEASURES
Researchers provided pencils, surveys (see appendix A), and two copies of informed consent (see appendix B) to students when they entered a psychology room to take the surveys. The survey entitled Social Choices and Academic Performance was 27 questions long and wasn’t expected to take more than 15 minutes to complete. The first section of the survey asked students their rank, gender, age, sexual orientation and ethnicity to provide demographic information on the students. Interspersed with the demographic information was a question asking for mid-term GPA. The next part of the survey asked students information on their sexual experience and frequency. Students were asked whether they had participated in sex, oral sex, heavy petting, or “making out.” They were also asked how recently and how often they participate in these activities. The next portion of the survey asked questions on relationship status. Students were asked if they had a significant other or a partner they consistently date. If they had answered “yes” to either one of those questions they reported how long they were involved in the relationship and whether they would describe the relationship as casual or serious. The next part of the survey asked questions pertaining to students not involved in relationships. It asked them to report if they go out intending to make sexual contact with another person and how often. The last part of the survey asked for the number of credit hours the student is taking, how many hours a week they study and whether or not they consider themselves a good student.
The study was conducted in November 2003, two weeks after mid-term grades were released. Students either signed up for times to take the survey or researchers went to group meetings where students gathered to administer the survey. Students were given two copies of the informed consent form and placed far enough apart to assure privacy while taking the 27-question, 15 minute survey. After completing the survey the students placed the surveys in an envelope and were debriefed. The questions from the survey were then coded and the data was tabulated and analyzed to see if there was a relationship between sexual activity and academic performance.
RESULTS The students had a mean grade point average of 3.23 with a standard deviation of .54. The mean age of students was 19.64 years with a standard deviation of 1.21 years.There were 80 participants, with considerable differences in the proportion of gender (male=11, female=69). The participant pool consisted primarily of Caucasian students, but participants vary in ethnicities (see table 1). Table 2 shows the proportions of the ranks of the participants. Table 3 shows the frequency in which students engaged in sexual activity.Both hypotheses were tested using Independent-Samples T-Tests, t(78)= -.129, ns. The first hypothesis was not supported, as no significant difference was found between the grade point averages of those who are sexually active and those who are not. The second hypothesis was not supported, as no significant difference was found between the grade point averages of those in a relationship and those not in a relationship t(45)=1.283, ns.Although there was no significant difference in both the hypotheses, some interesting correlations were found. For instance, the higher in rank a student is, the more likely he or she has had oral sex (r= -.356, p<.01), has touched below the waist (r= -.248, p<.05), and has made out with someone (r= -.23, p<.05). This was found using Pearson’s Correlation test (see Table 4). Also, surprisingly, if a student has had oral sex(r= -.254, p<.05), or has touched below the waist (r= -.258, p<.05), his or her GPA is higher (see Table 5). Not as surprising is the data that if one are dating someone whom he or she does not consider significant, his or her GPA is lower (r= -.222, p<.05). Those who considered themselves good students were also likely to have participated in heavy petting (r= .5, p<.01) and to have made out (r= .234, p<.05). Some interesting correlations involve credit hours. The more credit hours one has relates to them being more likely to go out looking to make sexual contact (r= -.373, p<.05). Also, the more credit hours one takes relates to them being more likely to say that they are a good student (r= -.411, p<.01).
DISCUSSION The results of the experiment showed that our original hypotheses were not supported. This implies that either there is no significant relationship between sexual activity and academic performance or confounding variables corrupted our results, which led our failure to reject the null hypotheses.The data differed from past research (Schvaneveldt et al, ) in that we were not able to find significant results. Schvaneveldt et al showed that students who have intercourse sooner perform badly academically. Along with Schvaneveldt et al, Quatman et al. found a negative correlation between dating frequency and academic motivation. However, the data disagreed with these past studies. Considering no research of this matter has been done on college students, there could be a change from high school to college students in the effect of sexual activity on academic performance.A shortcoming was the failure to recruit more male participants and poorer students. A larger, more diverse subject pool is needed for the measure to be valid. The participants that volunteered were all good students (mean GPA=3.23). The high grade point average is not proportional to the whole population. Poorer students taking the survey will make help validate the study. The subject pool was skewed due to the lack of male participants. An equal proportion of men and women, and of good and poor students, should yield better results.A few improvements can be made to better the survey. The survey does a great job of asking questions on sexual activity. More questions about academic performance could be asked to get a better understanding of where they are academically. Measuring academic performance from a short period of time can be difficult. Mid-term GPAs may not be an accurate measure of performance at a given time.In life, good academic performance is key for admission into good high schools, colleges, or even graduate and medical schools. Due to the importance of performing well academically, it is important to know what could affect a GPA negatively or positively. Competition for entrance into good schools could lead to either a disappearance or resurgence in sexual activity for college students.
REFERENCES Bjerklie, D. (2003). Sex on campus. Time, 162(7), 66.Bogart, L.M., Cecil, H., Wagstaff, D.A., Pinkerton, S.D., & Abramson, P.R. (2000). Is it ‘sex’?College students’ interpretations of sexual behavior terminology. Journal of Sex Research 37(2), 108-117.Khoury, K. (1998). Clearing the air about sex on campus. Christian Science Monitor, 9(91), B6.Knox, D., Sturdivant, L., Zusman, M.E. (2001). College student attitudes toward sexual Intimacy. College Student Journal, 35, 241-244.Quatman, T., Sampson, K., Robinson, C., Watson, C.M. (2001). Academic, motivational, and emotional correlates of adolescent dating. Genetic, Social & General Psychology Monographs, 127, 211-235.Schvaneveldt, P.L., Miller, B.C., Berry, E.H., & Lee, T.R. (2001). Academic goals, achievement, And age at first sexual intercourse: Longitudinal, bidirectional influences. Adolescence, 35, 767-788.
TABLES Table 1Ethnicities of Participatnts______________________________
Ethnicity Number______________________________African American 19Caucasian 53Hispanic 7Asian 1______________________________
Table 2Rank of Participants______________________________
Freshman 17Sophomore 23Junior 24Senior 16______________________________
Table 3Frequeny of Sexual Activities in Past Month__________________________________________________________________ Number of Times in Past Month
Activity 1 Time 2 Times 3 Times 4 Times 5 Times More than 5Sex 6 4 5 5 2 20*Oral Sex 10 8 3 3 3 12Petting 11 9 3 4 3 23Making Out 13 11 7 6 4 28 *- Of the people that had sex within the last month 20 have had it more than five times.__________________________________________________________________
Table 4Intercorrelations Between Subscales for Sexual Activity in Students__________________________________________________________________
Subscale 1 2 3 4 1. Rank ¾ -.34 -.25 -.232. Have Had Oral Sex ¾ ¾ .57 .323. Have Touched Below Waist ¾ ¾ ¾ .294. Have Made Out With Someone ¾ ¾ ¾ ¾Note*- Correlations are negative due to the way data was entered. All correlations shown are significant. ___________________________________________________________
Table 5Intercorrelations Between Subscales for Sexual Activity in Students__________________________________________________________________
Subscale 1 2 3 1. Have Had Oral Sex ¾ .57 -.25 2. Have Touched Below Waist ¾ ¾ -.29 3. High GPA ¾ ¾ ¾Note*- Correlations are negative due to the way data was entered. All correlations shown are significant.__________________________________________________________________
APPENDICES Appendix A
Social Choices and Academic Performance Please answer the following questions honestly. The results are purely for research and your answers are anonymous. Either circle the choice that best fits you or write the answer in the space provided.
Rank: FR SO JR SR
Gender: M F
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual Homosexual Bisexual
Mid-term GPA _____
Ethnicity A. African AmericanB. CaucasianC. HispanicD. AsianE. Other (Please Specify)_______________
Have You Had Sex? Yes No
When was the last time? A. Within 1 week B. Within 2 Weeks C. Within 3 Weeks D. Longer E. N/A
How Many Times Within The Last Month? A. 1 B. 2C. 3 D. 4 E. 5F. More than 5G. N/A
Have You Had Oral Sex? Yes No
When was the last time? A. Within 1 weekB. Within 2 WeeksC. Within 3 WeeksD. LongerE. N/A
How Many Times Within The Last Month? A. 1B. 2C. 3D. 4E. 5F. More than 5G. N/A
Have You Participated in Heavy Petting (touching below the waist): Yes No
When was the last time? A. Within 1 weekB. Within 2 WeeksC. Within 3 WeeksD. LongerE. N/A
How Many Times Within The Last Month?A. 1B. 2C. 3D. 4E. 5F. More than 5G. N/A
Have You “Made Out” With Someone? Yes No
When was the last time?A. Within 1 weekB. Within 2 WeeksC. Within 3 WeeksD. LongerE. N/A
How Many Times Within The Last Month?A. 1B. 2C. 3D. 4E. 5F. More than 5G. N/A
Do you currently have a significant other (boyfriend or girlfriend)? A. YesB. No
Do you currently date the same person consistently but do not consider them a significant other?A. YesB. No
If you answered yes to either one of the previous questions how long? _______Years ______Months ______Weeks
If You Are in a Relationship you would most Describe it as… A. CasualB. Serious
If You Are NOT in a Relationship Do You Go Out Intending To Make Sexual Contact With Another Person? A. YesB. No
How Many Times a Month?A. 1B. 2C. 3D. 4E. 5F. 6G. 7H. 8I. More than 8
Do You Consider Yourself “Sexually Active”? Yes No
How Many Credit Hours are you taking?A. 12B. 13-15C. 16-18D. 19-20E. More than 20
How Many Hours a Week Do You Study? _____________
Do you consider yourself a good student? Yes No
Appendix BInformed ConsentA study of the relationship between sexual activity and academic performance
Faculty Sponsors: Elizabeth A. Deitch, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org)Elizabeth Y. Hammer, PhD (email@example.com)Principal Investigators:Zachary Wensch (firstname.lastname@example.org)Jamon Abanaka (email@example.com)Loyola University New OrleansDepartment of Psychology, 439F Monroe(504) 865-3095
Description of the Research: The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between the sexual activity of college students and their academic performance.
Procedures: If you agree to participate in this study you will be asked to respond to a set of questions pertaining to your social life, sexual activity, academic performance, and involvement in relationships. Some of these questions are very specific and very personal. You will be asked to report on the frequency of sexual encounters that you have made. If you do not feel comfortable answering questions pertaining to your sex-life, academic performance, or social life do not take this survey. These activities will take about 15 minutes of your time.
Benefits and Risks: Possible benefits that may be derived from this research include a better understanding of the relationship between your social life and your schoolwork. The risks to you may be a temporary change in mood induced by some questions or responses. If you feel sad or depressed at some point after the research you may wish to contact the Counseling and Career Services, 208 Danna Center, 865-3835.Research Data and Records: Records of your participation in this study will be kept confidential to the extent permitted by law. Your responses will be anonymous and results of this research will only be reported as summarized data and will not contain any identifiable individual data.
Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is entirely voluntary. At any time while you are actively participating, you may withdraw your consent and terminate your participation without consequence. Should you have any questions about this project, you may contact the Principal Investigators, Zachary Wensch or Jamon Abanaka, whose contact information appears above.By signing below, you agree that you have been sufficiently informed of the purpose of the study and any risks and benefits. Please sign two copies and retain one copy for your records.I have read and understand the information given above, and I sign this consent willingly.
Signature of Participant________________________________ Date____________