Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Randall M. Jones


Randall M. Jones


The prevalence of nonmarital sexual behavior among adolescents continues to rise, as does the number of sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and unwanted pregnancies. College-age adolescents appear to be even more susceptible to these problems. Sound theoretical knowledge would seem useful in designing more effective prevention programs. The purpose of this study was to identity theoretical factors that contribute to or decrease such behaviors.

Two hundred fifty-two single college students completed measures designed to examine relations among identity development, attachment patterns, gender, and sexual behavior in older adolescents. Attachment and identity measures were used to explore variations in sexual behavior relating to identity development and the quality of intimate relationships formed in late adolescence. Three measures were used to assess these theoretical constructs and to measure sexual behavior: The Personal Opinion Survey contains Grotevant and Adams' 64-item Extended Version of the Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status; a modified version of Simpson, Rholes, and Nelligan's 13-item Attachment Style measure; and 19 items that assess sexual behaviors.

Results confirmed statistically significant relations among identity development, attachment patterns, gender, and sexual behavior. Specifically, correlational analyses confirmed relations among identity, attachment, and premarital intercourse, age of first intercourse, and items pertaining to risky sexual behavior. Identity was also statistically significantly related to premarital intercourse. Attachment and identity subscale scores were predictive of sexual behavior when multiple regression equations were generated. Previous studies of identity, gender, and intimacy among older adolescents support the findings of this study. Other researchers have found relationships between attachment and intimacy among this population. The results of this study and future research areas are discussed.