You are here: Home / People / Bill McCarthy / Publications / Sex and School: Adolescent Sexual Intercourse and Education

Bill McCarthy and Eric Grodsky (2011)

Sex and School: Adolescent Sexual Intercourse and Education

Social Problems, 58(2):213--234.

A number of studies document a negative relationship between adolescent sexual intercourse and high school educational experiences and outcomes; yet, this research risks conflating the consequences associated with sex in romantic relationships with those that result when sex occurs in other relationship contexts. We predict that, compared to abstinence, intercourse in romantic relationships will have limited consequences for education, whereas the negative effects associated with sex in other relationships will be pronounced. We evaluate our hypothesis with two waves of data on nine measures of educational experiences and outcomes from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Our results are generally consistent with our predictions: the context in which sexual activity occurs substantially moderates the relationship between sexual intercourse and several education measures. These findings contradict the claims some abstinence-only curricula make regarding the link between adolescent sex and a plethora of negative outcomes. We speculate that such programs reinforce the notion that sex, and in particular sex that occurs in nonromantic relationships, is counternormative. As a result, they may needlessly increase the risk that some sexually active adolescents will have negative educational experiences and outcomes. Adapted from the source document.

adolescent sexual intercourse, education, romantic relationships, sex norms, the life course, *Adolescents, *Sexual Behavior, *Schools, *Sexual Intercourse, *Health Problems, *Risk, *Couples, *High Schools, *Abstinence, article, 1940: the family and socialization; sociology of sexual behavior
Ventura, Stephanie J; Abma, Joyce C; Mosher, William D; Henshaw, Stanley K. Estimated pregnancy rates for the United States, 1990-2005: an update. National vital statistics reports : from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, 58. 4 (2009): 1-14

Document Actions

You are Here

1283 Social Sciences & 
University of California, 
One Shields Avenue 
Davis, CA 95616

(530) 752-0782 phone
(530) 752-0783 fax

Map and Additional Contact Information

Make a Gift

Giving matters at UC Davis. For more than a century, donors have been helping the university address the issues that matter most to California, the nation and the world.  The Department of Sociology is dedicated to achieving excellence. Your gift can help.

Make a gift