Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

May 1, 2007

In a blended family setting, having a strong relationship with a stepfather lowers the motivations for sexual activity for adolescent males, but makes little difference for young females, says a new study from Ball State.

The study found that attitudes toward sexuality for females were related more strongly to religion and their mothers' attitudes concerning sexual activity.


A research team led by Chad Menning, sociology professor, recently completed a study on blended families that examined how the stepfather-stepchild relationship influences adolescents' attitudes about sexual behavior. 


The researchers used data from 923 respondents of the National Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a survey of adolescents in grades 7-12 during 1994-­­95.


The team examined the respondents' disposition toward having sex, their involvement with a stepfather and if the relationship between involvement with a stepfather and the adolescent's attitudes about sexual activity differed for males and females. 


"We found that since different factors influence the motivations of males and females to engage in sex, intervention programs need to be structured with these gender differences in mind," Menning said. "The attitudes of young people about sexual behavior play a key role in understanding their early sexual activity. Their attitudes are often shaped by relationships — including the stepfather-stepchild relationship."


Previous research has shown that early sexual activity among adolescents leads to consequences that disrupt their lives including early childbearing, increased chances of becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases and diminished educational aspirations.