College Students` Number of Sexual Partners and Year Level
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REYNOLDS, L. E. (2003). College Students` Number of Sexual Partners and Year Level. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved August 18, 2018
LAUREN E. REYNOLDS
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY NEW ORLEANS DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY
Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (firstname.lastname@example.org)
|Due to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, it is important to look at promiscuous sex among college students. This study investigated the relationship between studentsí year level in college and their number of sexual partners per year. Participants were 78 college seniors (37 males, 38 females, 3 sex unknown). We hypothesized that as college students progress from one year to the next their number of sexual partners per year decreases. We were able to support our hypothesis in terms of oral sex partners and casual partners, but not in terms of sexual partners. We also found significant results in regards to alcohol consumption decreasing, and G.P.A. increasing, as a student progresses through college. Our findings support the notion that college students have less oral sex partners and casual partners, as they get older.|
INTRODUCTION After graduating from high school many young adults make the decision to further their education and go on to college. Many of these students opt to live in dorms or apartments, often meaning they will be living on their own for the first time. This freedom is an important stage in a personís life, but with these benefits also comes some dangers. Some young adults may have become used to having their parents or guardians controlling their behavior and therefore have a hard time with self-discipline. College freshmen that were given strict rules of conduct while they were growing up may feel it is time to rebel and finally experience freedom. Others may simply give in to the pressures of peers to partake in risky behavior such as binge drinking and unsafe sex. Such dangers implicate why research on college students and sexual activity is important. The issue of promiscuous sex is what is focused on in this study. Promiscuous sex can lead to a number of sexually transmitted diseases some of which can be extremely serious, or even deadly. In 1998, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 25-44 (cited in Brown and Smith, 1998). Information from Centers for Disease Control tell us that physical symptoms, on average, do not appear for ten years. Therefore, individuals infected with AIDS, may have contracted the disease during adolescence, and for some this may have been during their college years (Brown and Smith, 1998). In order to correct such problems, we must first look at the numbers of people concerned. Therefore this study will examine the correlation between a studentís year level and their number of sexual partners. It is hypothesized that as students progress from one year to the next their number of sexual partners per year decreases. Studies and books have described the effects of the new environment of college on students. Herbert Sachs (1975) identifies that college is often a time of new challenges and along with that comes doubt and confusion. College Freshman are suddenly given virtually unrestricted freedom to experiment with different behaviors, which may include sex, drugs and alcohol, which were restricted when they were living at home (Brown and Smith, 1998). For some the move from high school to college goes smoothly, for others it results in difficulty adjusting to college life, which may reveal itself as stress or even psychosocial or physical symptoms (Lese and Robbins, 1993). College freshmanís academic and personal adjustment is effected by their social surroundings as well as their social support from family and friends. Researchers Lese and Robbins (1993) found that low goal-directed individuals who felt they had little social support were reported to have lower levels of personal adjustment than those who were highly goal-directed yet felt they had the same amount of social support. The social scene that college freshmen are thrown into can be highly influential and in some cases dangerous. In regards to binge drinking, some have gone so far as to describe the act as ritualistic (Otnes, Treise, and Wolburg, 1999). While we often recognize the bad influences of social groups among college students, we must also realize there are good messages that can be conveyed through college studentsí social surroundings. Many colleges emphasize the danger of HIV transmission, and advertise methods of prevention (Dalton, Donald, and Ratliff-Crain, 1999). The problem is that this social message does not seem to influence students. In fact even though most college students are very aware of the dangers of HIV, a large number of them are still partaking in risky sex behaviors (Dalton, Donald, and Ratliff-Crain, 1999). Studies like ours will allow administrators to focus on a particular age group of students to target for education on preventing risky sex behaviors and then work towards a more effective measure of education on the subject. Another study, which emphasized the importance of social influence, focused on college men. The study attempted to link a lack of social skills with sexual coerciveness in college men (Conger and Koralewski, 1992). While their findings did not support their notion that men engage in sexually coercive behavior because they lack appropriate social skills, it did provide suggestions for future research on the topic. Such suggestions included studying the effects of alcohol on college men to see whether or not it may have an impact on sexual coerciveness (Conger and Koralewski, 1992). This suggestion shows that alcohol may not only be a dangerous catalyst for increase of sexual activity, but it may also lead a person to engage in aggressive or violent forced sexual behavior such as rape (Conger and Koralewski, 1992).The number one health issue that affected college students in the 1990ís was binge drinking and its consequences (Kuo et al., 2002). The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS) provided insight on some of the behaviors that often accompany binge drinking. These behaviors include educational difficulties, antisocial behaviors and psychosocial problems. However, the consequence of binge drinking which is of most concern for our purposes is high-risk sexual behaviors (Kuo et al., 2002). The Researchers (Kuo et al., 2002) compared four surveys designed to measure alcohol use trends among college students as well as how they felt about drinking prevention efforts they had been exposed to during college. The surveys were administered approximately every other year during the time period between 1993 and 2001. Their findings revealed that after eight years, the number of students who admitted to binge drinking was virtually unchanged (Kuo et al., 2002). This finding implies that preventative education measures that have been implemented in the past several years have not been successful in impacting students. Another group of researchers feel that if public service announcement developers realized that binge drinking is a type of college ritual, they would be able to create more effective public service announcements (Otnes et al., 2002). The article displays the importance of innovative measures by saying, ďGiven the health hazards that result from binge drinking, we intend to pursue further the study of how conceptualizing college drinking as ritual behavior can lead to the creation of successful public service announcementsĒ (Otnes et al., 2002). Janice Brown and Courtney Smith (1998) created a research study that provides further insight on the notion that risky sex behavior often occurs when people are under the influence of alcohol. They hypothesized that college students who engaged in more risky sex behavior were also more involved with alcohol. They decided which individuals had greater alcohol involvement by studying number of days drinking, amount consumed and number of binge drinking days. Their results indicated that individuals who had an increase in risky sexual behaviors had greater alcohol involvement (Brown and Smith, 1998). The authors state two areas in which they are lacking, those being their lack of diversity in ages (87% of participants were freshmen or sophomores), and the fact that they were only studying the participantís most recent sexual experience. These are two areas that my study will help clarify because all of our participants are seniors who will answer retrospective questions about their freshman, sophomore and junior years, and the surveys include all of their sexual experiences from the past four years. Another study (Dalton et al., 1999) helps us further understand the dangers associated with college students sexual behavior. Statistics show that seventy-five to eighty percent of students are sexually active. The frightening statistic they offer is that less that 20% of college students use condoms on a regular basis, and one-third do not use condoms at all. The researchers (Dalton et al., 1999) supported their hypothesis that participants knowledge of HIV and AIDS would not influence whether or not they engaged in safe or unsafe sex. All of these sources shared the common suggestion that introduction to college life is a time of change and adjustment. They had all concluded that such adjustment involves exploration that often involves risk-taking behavior as a component. The articles regarding college students sexual behavior made strong emphasis on how dangerous these behaviors can be. With the risk of HIV and other STDís we must work toward safe-sex education and prevention of risky sexual behaviors. This study will attempt to explore college studentsí sexual behaviors even more by examining whether students have more sexual partners when they are freshman than during their sophomore or junior years of college. It is hypothesized that as students progress from one year to the next their number of sexual partners per year decreases.
METHOD Participants Participants included 100 Loyola students, both male and female over the age of
18. They participated on a voluntary basis. Sign up sheets and word of mouth were used to recruit participants.MaterialsA survey was given to the participants. Pens or pencils were used by the participants to complete the survey. The survey asked seniors retrospective questions in order to measure how many sexual partners they had per year during their freshman, sophomore and junior years. We split sexual partners into three categories. They were as follows: Sexual Partners (which included only partners whom the participant had sexual intercourse with); Oral Sexual Partners (which included only partners whom the participant had performed or received oral sex with); and Casual Partners (which included any partner the participant kissed or engaged in sexual typed touching with). We also included questions that asked how many times per week a student drank when they were a freshman, sophomore and junior. The participantsí sex was asked for, as well as whether or not they considered themselves sexually active currently. The survey is unpublished.Design and ProcedureThe two variables examined were a college studentís year level and the number of sexual partners a college student had. This is a correlational study and therefore does not have an Independent and Dependant variable. Informed consent was obtained before the survey was administered. We, the researchers, handed out the surveys and then instructed the participant to read the instructions carefully before starting the survey. We told the participants that they had as much time as they needed to complete the survey but it is estimated to take less than 45 minutes. The participants were asked not to put their names anywhere on the survey. Once the surveys were completed, or a participant decided not to complete it, the participants were debriefed and will be encouraged to ask questions. Any questions raised were addressed, and the participants were thanked and allowed to leave. Debriefing included a statement that explained that the study was to examine the relationship between a studentís year level and number of sexual partners. They were also told that if counseling was needed we had provided the appropriate phone numbers along with their survey.
RESULTS (See Table 1 for descriptive statistics). A repeated measures ANOVA was used to analyze the means of college studentsí year level and their number of sexual partners per year. The Pearsonís r test was also used to find correlations between variables. We hypothesized that students number of oral sexual partners would decrease, as they moved along in school. There was an overall decrease in students number of oral sexual partners as they moved along in school, F(2,154)=5.829, p=.01. This hypothesis was supported. The most significant decrease was from freshman year to junior year, F(1,77)=8.328, p=.01. There was also a significant decrease from sophomore year to junior year, F(1,77)=5.995, p=.05. However, there was not a significant decrease from freshman year to sophomore year F(1,77)=.933. We hypothesized that students number of casual partners would decrease as they moved along in school. There was an overall significant decrease in students number of casual partners, F(2,152)=8.85, p=.001. This hypothesis was supported. The decrease from freshman year to sophomore year and the decrease from freshman year to junior year were both significant, F(1,76)=7.521, p=.01, and F(1,76)=11.996, p=.01, respectively. There was no significant decrease from sophomore to junior year, F(1,76)=3.133, ns. We hypothesized that students level of alcohol consumption would decrease as they moved along in school. There was an overall significant decrease in alcohol consumption, F(2,152)=22.732, p=.001. This hypothesis was supported. There was a significant decrease from freshman to sophomore year, F(1,76)=9.55, p=.001. There was a significant decrease from sophomore to junior year, F(1,76)=13.077, p=.01. The decrease from freshman to junior year was also significant, F(1,76)=44.675, p=.001. We also found that freshman alcohol consumption is significantly positively related to the number of sexual partners during a students freshman year, r=.305, p=.01. We also hypothesized that college studentís alcohol consumption would be positively correlated with their number of oral sexual partners and casual sexual partners. Freshmenís alcohol consumption was positively correlated with their number of oral sexual partners and their number of casual partners, r=.379, p=.001, and r=.381, p=.001, respectively. This hypothesis was supported. We hypothesized that college students alcohol consumption would be negatively correlated with their G.P.A. Freshman alcohol consumption was significantly negatively correlated to G.P.A., r=-.262, p=.05. This hypothesis was supported. Sophomore alcohol consumption is significantly positively related to sophomore sexual partners, oral partners and casual partners, r=.586, p=.001, r=.546, p=.001, and r=.399, p=.001. Sophomore alcohol consumption is also significantly negatively related to G.P.A., r=-.260, p=.02. Junior alcohol consumption is significantly negatively related to G.P.A., r=-.226, p=.05. Junior alcohol consumption is significantly positively related to number of oral sex partners and casual partners, r=.283, p=.02, and r=.413, p=.001, respectively.We hypothesized that there would be a significant rise in G.P.A. as students progressed in school. There was an overall significant rise in G.P.A. as students moved along in school, F(2,152)=7.10, p=.01. This hypothesis was supported. There was a significant rise from freshman to junior year and sophomore to junior year, F(1,76)=10.30, p=.01, and F(1,76)=10.996, p=.01, respectively. There was no significant rise from freshman to sophomore year, F(1,76)=2.139. We hypothesized that G.P.A. would be negatively correlated to students number of partners. This hypothesis was supported in regards to sexual partners and oral sexual partners. Freshmen G.P.A. was significantly negatively related to freshmen sexual partners and oral sexual partners, r=-.351, p=.002, and r=-.338, p=.003, respectively. Sophomore G.P.A. was significantly negatively related to sophomore sexual and casual partners, r=-.324,p=.005, and r=-.227, p=.05, respectively. There were no significant relations in regards to junior G.P.A. and number of partners.
DISCUSSION We were able to partially support our hypothesis that number of sexual partners would decrease as students progress in school, since we had separated sexual partners into three groups, and two of the groups had significant results. We found that we were able to support our notion that number of oral sexual partners and number of casual partners decreased as students progressed in school, although, we were not able to support the notion that sexual partners decrease (intercourse partners). Our study supported the idea that for many freshman college students they are experiencing their first taste of freedom and therefore have easier access to activities such as sex, drugs and alcohol (Brown and Smith, 1998). The overall decrease in alcohol consumption as students progress and the significant positive correlation between alcohol and casual, oral, and sexual partners, supported the notion that the two are related. Past research implicated the dangers of college students binge drinking. The positive correlation we found between alcohol consumption and number of partners expanded on Brown and Smithís (1998) findings that individuals who had greater alcohol involvement had an increase in risky sexual behaviors. We also found that there was an overall increase in G.P.A. as students progressed and there was a significant negative correlation between G.P.A. and some of the sex partners groups. The design of the study and the survey may have left open some room for shortcomings. Since the survey was one we made up ourselves, we do not know how reliable the measure truly is. Since it was a within subjects design there is the risk that participants may have become uninterested with the survey since it was asking the same questions for each school year. Also, since the questions were retrospective, participantsí recollection may not have been entirely reliable as their memory of years past may not be as clear. This leads into the fact that since the surveys were self-reports, participants may not have been completely honest for any number of reasons. This study allows us to speculate that college freshmen are more sexually promiscuous than older college students. Therefore, some practical implications could be that college health centers begin to focus their sex education efforts on college freshmen with the hopes of clarifying the dangers of sexual promiscuity, and making an effort to decrease college freshmenís risky sex behaviors. Theoretical implications of this study are its contribution to the study of college studentsí sexual behaviors. It is a step forward in the direction of a better understanding of freshman college students risky behaviors such as binge drinking and promiscuous sex.Future research is definitely necessary in this field. It may be beneficial for future researchers to find a more reliable test measure. Also a larger amount of participants would help to make sure the findings could be generalized to a larger population. Future research should also focus more on the reasons freshmen have more sexual partners than older students, in order to help prevent sexual promiscuity in the future.
REFERENCES Brown, J.M., Smith, C.D. (1998). Sexual behaviors, extroversion, and alcohol use among college students. Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education, 44, 70-79. Cohen, J.C., Koralewski, M.A. (1992). The assessment of social skills among sexually coercive college males. Journal of Sex Research, 29, 169-188. .Dalton, J., Donald, K.M., Ratliff-Crain, J. (1999). Knowledge, beliefs, peer norms, and past behaviors as correlates of risky sexual behaviors among college students. Psychology & Health, 14, 625-641. Kuo, M., Lee, H., Lee, J.E., Nelson, T.F., Seibring, M., Wechsler, H. (2002). Trends in college binge drinking during a period of increased prevention efforts. Journal of American College Health, 50, 203-217. Lese, K.P., Robbins, S.B. (1993). Interactions between goal instability and social support on college freshman adjustment. Journal of Counseling & Development, 71, 343-348. Otnes, C.C., Treise, D., Wolburg, J.M. (1999). Understanding the Ďsocial giftsí of drinking rituals: an alternative framework for psa developers. Journal of Advertising, 28, 17-31. Sachs, H. L. (1975). The concept of college. Dynamic Personal Adjustment: an introduction. (pp.11-28). New York, NY: Behavioral Publications, Inc.
Table 1Descriptive Statistics Minimum Maximum Mean Standard DeviationFSP 0 8 1.73 1.95FALC 0 7 3.98 1.80FGPA 1.0 4.0 3.0188 .6668FOSP 0 10 2.36 2.24FCP 0 26 3.90 4.42SSP 0 14 1.97 2.26SALC 0 14 3.49 1.95SGPA .90 4.0 3.1052 .5260SOSP 0 14 2.19 2.55SCP 0 20 2.71 3.32JSP 0 21 1.82 2.59JALC 0 6 2.80 1.47JGPA 2.0 4.0 3.2203 .4149JOSP 0 12 2.13 2.45Note: N=75
Submitted 12/9/2003 10:38:55 AM
Last Edited 12/9/2003 10:43:31 AM
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