A model of sexual decision-making in college students
Oswalt, Sara Beth
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This project proposed and tested comprehensive models for sexual decision-making among college students using social cognitive theory as a framework. Ten sexual decision-making components (concern for risk, sense of future, obligation, relational concerns, developmental stage, physical gratification, level of sexual experience, self-efficacy regarding alcohol, self-efficacy regarding communication, and self-efficacy regarding decision-making) were included in the models. Existing scales were used to measure each sexual decision-making component, and three vignettes were developed to measure the decision to engage in sexual activity. Structural equation modeling was used to examine three different models based on three sexual decisions: the decisions to engage in oral sex, vaginal sex, and other sexual behaviors. The investigation involved a cross-sectional survey of college students (n=496) at a large southeastern university. When examined for all participants, the proposed model yielded a nonproper solution. However, examining the models for females participants only yielded a proper solution for all three models. For the male-only models, only the decision to engage in oral sex was a proper solution. Regression analyses revealed different predictors for the decision to engage in oral sex, vaginal sex, and other sexual behaviors. The regression analyses also revealed different predictors for males and females. Two sexual decision-making components, sense of future and physical gratification, were consistently predictors in the regression analyses for the decisions to engage in oral and vaginal sex. Notably, concern for (pregnancy and disease) risk was absent as a significant predictor for any of the three sexual decisions. College sexual health educators need to consider differences between males and females in developing messages targeted toward the sexes, how the perception of arousal and pleasure impact one’s sexual decisions, as well as increasing students’ awareness of their risk. Because physical gratification affects sexual decisions consistently, increasing students’ awareness about alternate activities that provide pleasure could assist in students making lower risk decisions. Future research needs to further explore the sexual decision-making of males, examine sexual decision-making of sexually active and non-sexually active students separately, and use a prospective research design.