Coital Debut: The Role of Religiosity and Sex Attitudes in the Add Health Survey

Sharon Scales Rostosky, Mark D. Regnerus, Margaret Laurie Comer Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

178 Scopus citations


Recent reviews suggest that religiosity is associated with the delay of adolescent coital debut (Rostosky, Wilcox, Wright, & Randall, in press; Wilcox, Rostosky, Randall, & Wright, 2001). Few studies, however, have examined this association using longitudinal data to test theoretically driven models. We analyzed data from 3,691 adolescents (ages 15-21), testing the hypothesis that adolescent religiosity and sex attitudes (at Wave 1) predict later coital debut (at Wave 2) and that these predictive relationships vary by gender. Findings indicated that beyond demographic factors and number of romantic partners, religiosity reduced the likelihood of coital debut for both males and females. After accounting for the effects of religiosity, anticipation of negative emotions after coital debut (sex attitude factor 1) further reduced its likelihood for females and males. Finally, adolescent girls-but not boys-who anticipated positive emotions following sexual intercourse (sex attitude factor 2) were more likely to debut. While virginity pledge status was associated with coital debut for boys and girls, more conservative beliefs about sex appeared to mediate its effect. Finally, a significant interaction between race and religiosity indicated that African American adolescent males who had either signed a virginity pledge or were more religious were significantly more likely to debut than both White non-Hispanic males and African American males who were less religious and/or who had not signed a pledge. The implications of these results for adolescent pregnancy prevention programming are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-367
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr. Rostosky's work on this project was partially supported by a 2002 University of Kentucky Summer Faculty Fellowship. This research was also funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under Grant No. R01 HD40428-02 to the Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin (Chandra Muller, PI). Opinions reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the granting agency.

Funding Information:
This research used data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by Grant No. P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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