Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Randall M. Jones


Randall M. Jones


The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a relationship between adolescent premarital sexual attitudes, motivations, behavior, and cognitive style (style of decision-making process). A review of the literature indicated that deviant behaviors among youth are related to one another and that they are also related to ego identity and cognitive style. No previous study had specifically examined sexual behavior, attitudes, and motivations in relation to cognitive style.

A self-report questionnaire was employed to gather information about cognitive style and sexual behaviors, attitudes, and motivations. The sample was comprised of 579 university students ages 17 to 25 from Utah and Arizona.

The dependent variables were sexual attitudes, motivations, and behaviors. The independent variable, cognitive style, was measured with Berzonsky's Cognitive Style Inventory.

As hypothesized, a notable difference was shown between the diffuse-oriented and norm-oriented youth. Diffuse-oriented individuals tended to be more sexually active and more liberal and flippant in their attitudes about this behavior, and cited more external consequences for sexual activity than norm-oriented individuals, who were more abstinent and more conservative in their attitudes. Information-oriented individuals recognized positive internal consequences for sexual behavior beyond that of the norm-oriented and diffuse-oriented. Frequency of contraceptive use among sexually active adolescents was not significantly different across the cognitive ·styles. Limitations and recommendations were discussed.