L. Monique Ward's research while affiliated with University of Michigan and other places

Publications (97)

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The Strong Black woman (SBW) schema refers to the U.S. cultural gender role expectation of Black women as resilient despite adversity, selfless, and serving as caretakers and providers. Previous scholars have examined the nature, origins, and consequences of this schema, including the ways in which Black women navigate the SBW in their workplaces,...
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The Internet has become a ubiquitous central element in the lives of adolescents. In this conceptual paper, we focus on digital white racial socialization (D‐WRS), arguing: (1) for an expanded conceptualization of WRS as doings, and (2) that social media may be changing processes of WRS through an extension of traditional settings and through the c...
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Women are socialized to endorse femininity scripts mandating that they prioritize others’ needs and engage in self-silencing behaviors. Further, Black women may also endorse the strong Black woman (SBW) ideal, by which they are expected to selflessly meet the needs of their family and community and, as such, may embrace self-silencing in their inte...
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On a longitudinal sample of 181 emerging adult men (Mage = 19.36, SDage = 1.48), we analyzed how diverse socializing agents (fathers, male peers, magazines, music videos, TV dramas, and TV sitcoms) related to adherence to masculine norms, and how norm adherence related to men's interpersonal sexual cognitions and behaviors (romantic relationship se...
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A prominent feature of mainstream television, especially reality programming, is a heterosexual script that outlines women’s and men’s traditional courtship roles. Although frequent media use is believed to produce greater acceptance of this script, existing analyses have not fully delineated contributions of scripted versus reality programming or...
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Using an experimental methodology, the present study investigated the effect of objectified versus nonobjectified social media photos of Black and White young women on young Black and White people’s attitudes. An aim of the study was to examine whether Black women are penalized for an objectified self-presentation on social media in similar ways as...
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Although women are expected to idealize and achieve hegemonic feminine beauty standards such as being slender and lighter skinned, few studies have examined how women’s investment in achieving these restrictive feminine appearance ideals may influence their sexual attitudes and behaviors. Even less is known about Black women. We surveyed 640 Black...
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Findings consistently illustrate the negative association between women’s sexual objectification and their sexual functioning. At the same time, some scholars argue that sexualized self-presentation may be a way to embrace one’s sexuality and may signify empowerment. To date, no studies have explicitly explored the potential differential contributi...
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Black-oriented media may offer Black women an opportunity to produce and consume empowering messages that challenge heteropatriarchal relationship beliefs, but they may also foster their endorsement. Drawn by this paradox, we surveyed 597 undergraduate and graduate Black women aged 18 to 30 years to examine exposure to Black-oriented media and thei...
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Parents and peers are key sources of information on a variety of sexual topics. Parents and peers differ in the content and frequency of the sexual messages they convey, but both sources influence the development of sexual attitudes. Gender differences in messages about homosexuality have been underexplored. The current study examined gender differ...
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Gendered sexual scripts (GSS) reflect stereotypes about the gender-specific behaviors expected in romantic and sexual relationships. Television may be a powerful contributor to these scripts for adolescents because of its stereotypical portrayals and prominence in their lives. However, although television use is a consistent predictor of adults’ GS...
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Although objectification theory posits negative consequences of self‐objectification for adolescent girls, few studies have tested how objectification and sexualization contribute to mental health for youth of color. Accordingly, the current study explores the relations among body surveillance, enjoyment of sexualization, and mental health for a sa...
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Digital dating abuse (DDA) is a pattern of behaviors using cell phones and social media to harass, pressure, coerce, and threaten a dating partner. Little is known about teen girls’ and boys’ motivations to perpetrate digital dating abuse. This study drew from survey research with 703 high school students and used multiple methods to explore DDA mo...
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Children's beliefs and stereotypes about racial groups emerge early and are shaped by many forces, both internal (e.g., categorization skills) and external. Media content and models are believed to play a prominent role in this learning, especially because portrayals are often stereotypical, youth may have little exposure to other racial groups, an...
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This review summarizes recent findings (2000–2020) concerning media's contributions to the development of gender stereotypes in children and adolescents. Content analyses document that there continues to be an underrepresentation of women and a misrepresentation of femininity and masculinity in mainstream media, although some positive changes are n...
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Most research on Black girls’ sexuality emphasizes reducing risk behaviors, with less attention to dimensions of healthy and normative sexual development, such as body positivity. To address this gap, we sought to explore the diversity of sexual messaging young Black women received during their formative years. Using consensual qualitative research...
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Objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) provides a framework for understanding how cultural pressure on women’s appearance (i.e., sexual objectification) impacts their psychological and physical well-being. Although objectification theory proposes that objectification processes commence with the onset of puberty, much of the existing r...
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Sexual objectification and Jezebel stereotype endorsement, a racialized characterization of Black women as promiscuous, have been linked to harmful violence attitudes toward women. Although Black women’s experiences of sexual objectification may be compounded by racialized stereotypes, research has yet to examine how these processes intersect to in...
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Although most sexting among adolescents occurs in the context of a dating relationship, less is known about adolescents’ motivations to sext and the emotional experience of sexting within dating relationships. The current study surveyed 947 high school students about their sexting behaviors, motivations to sext, and emotional reactions to sexting r...
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Existing analyses of Black women on TV have tended to focus on their general prevalence or employment/family status. As such, less is known about the extent to which they reflect broader attributes associated with women and with Black women. Accordingly, we examined portrayals of Black women on 12 scripted programs, focusing on 33 behaviors associa...
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Purpose: Decades of research have examined the impact of exposure to nonexplicit portrayals of sexual content in media. There is only one meta-analysis on this topic, which suggests that exposure to "sexy media" has little to no effect on sexual behavior. There are a number of limitations to the existing meta-analysis, and the purpose of this upda...
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Although everyday exposure to mainstream media is theorized to be associated with women’s self-objectification, empirical tests of this association have yielded mixed results. There are several possible explanations for these mixed results. For example, it may be that mainstream media relate to women’s broader tendency to self-sexualize rather than...
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Introduction: Puberty is a critical biopsychosocial event that has long-term consequences for adolescents' behavior and well-being. Research has shown that developing earlier than one's peers may worsen adolescent girls' body image, in part due to weight redistribution and increases in adiposity resulting from pubertal development. However, resear...
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Although media exposure has emerged as a significant predictor of consumers’ sexual decision making, less is known about the mechanisms involved and about the dynamics of these relations for adults, in general, and for African American adults, in particular. To address these gaps, we used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test whether heterosex...
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To examine the link between fraternity membership and sexual assault perpetration, we used an experimental design to assess the role of perceptions in an ambiguous sexual assault scenario. Undergraduates (N = 408) were randomly assigned to either an experimental group where the perpetrator is a fraternity member or a control group where no fraterni...
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Digital media have become a significant context for adolescent dating relationships. As the use of social media and mobile phones increases, so do concerns that these media might be a context for “digital dating abuse” (DDA), or the use of digital media to harass, pressure, threaten, coerce, or monitor a dating partner. Although DDA has been shown...
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Although numerous studies demonstrate links between negative body image and sexual well-being, recent research has emphasized studying the positive aspects of these constructs. The current study built upon this prior research by examining the association between body appreciation and sexual agency among a US community sample of 355 heterosexual wom...
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Because portrayals of pregnancy and childbirth on reality television (TV) often highlight risk, drama, and the use of medical interventions, it is possible that exposure to this content could influence women’s fear of childbirth and childbirth self-efficacy. To test this question, we conducted an experiment among 213 undergraduate women who were as...
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Objective: Previous research has documented connections between media use and violence against women, yet the mechanism behind that relation remains unclear, especially for media that do not explicitly depict sexual violence. The purpose of this study was to examine whether objectification of women mediates the relations between media use (TV and p...
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This study investigated the associations between Black adolescents’ television usage and their endorsement of mainstream gender roles (MGR) and the strong Black woman (SBW) schema, which characterizes Black woman as emotionally strong, independent, and self-sacrificing. A total of 121 self-identified Black adolescents completed survey measures asse...
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Previous investigations of mainstream video games have documented a high prevalence of risk-promoting content, as well as a positive relation between video game play and participation in risk-taking behaviors such as reckless driving, substance use, and delinquency. In this study, we extend this work by investigating the role of video game genre an...
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Prior research has related the use of social networking sites (SNSs) to body image disturbances among adolescents, but studies examining how SNSs affect adolescents' engagement in self-sexualizing behaviors are lacking. The current correlational study among 640 adolescents (Mage = 16.27, SD = 1.60) aimed to take a more nuanced look at the influence...
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Objectification theorists argue that repeated exposure to sexually objectifying media content leads to higher levels of self-objectification. Although consequences of self-objectification for women’s sexual health and sexual agency have been proposed, efforts to test these connections have been infrequent and have yielded inconsistent results. We u...
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Although research findings highlight the complex dualities of the Strong Black Woman ideal and demonstrate its effects on Black women’s mental health and well-being, there is less understanding of the role that social media may play in Black women’s negotiation of this ideal. To what extent might Black women’s engagement with race-related social me...
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Sexual content is highly prevalent in traditional media, and portrayals rarely depict the responsibilities and risks (eg, condom use, pregnancy) associated with sexual activity. Exposure to such content is linked with shifts in attitudes about sex and gender, earlier progression to sexual activity, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infection amon...
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Although research indicates significant associations between exposure to certain types of media and men’s participation in high-risk behaviors, less is known about the potential mediating role of masculinity ideology, which is also linked to risk behaviors. Accordingly, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the relation between multip...
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This paper presents research exploring how stereotypes that are simultaneously racialized and gendered affect Black women. We investigated the mental and physical health consequences of Black women’s awareness that others hold these stereotypes and tested whether this association was moderated by the centrality of racial identity. A structural equa...
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Digital dating abuse (DDA) behaviors include the use of digital media to monitor, control, threaten, harass, pressure, or coerce a dating partner. In this study, 703 high school students reported on the frequency of DDA victimization, whether they were upset by these incidents, and how they responded. Results suggest that although both girls and bo...
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Although Facebook was created to help people feel connected with each other, data indicate that regular usage has both negative and positive connections to well-being. To explore these mixed results, we tested the role of social comparison and self-objectification as possible mediators of the link between Facebook use and three facets of psychologi...
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Both traditional gender roles and traditional heterosexual scripts outline sexual roles for women that center on sexual passivity, prioritizing others’ needs, and self-silencing. Acceptance of these roles is associated with diminished sexual agency. Because mainstream media are a prominent source of traditional gender portrayals, we hypothesized th...
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Although use of social networking sites has been linked to both positive and negative changes in young people's mental health, it is likely that these contributions may vary based on users' motivations and social status. For sexual minority youth, for example, the sites could provide means for social support and connections with like-minded others....
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Despite consistent evidence that fraternity membership is associated with greater perpetration and acceptance of sexual violence, less is known about why this link occurs. In this study, we use Structural Equation Modeling to test whether endorsement of traditional masculinity explains why fraternity membership is associated with greater rape myth...
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Although the media are believed to be instrumental in transmitting messages about both traditional femininity and Black femininity to Black youth, there is little empirical evidence documenting this process. Accordingly, this study investigated media contributions to Black college students’ endorsement of both traditional gender ideologies and of t...
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Content analyses of popular media have consistently documented the narrow and stereotypical ways in which women and men are frequently depicted. Despite growing evidence that these media images impact viewers’ attitudes towards women and gender relations, less is known about how specifically media impact men’s beliefs about masculinity. Thus, the p...
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Sexually objectifying portrayals of women are a frequent occurrence in mainstream media, raising questions about the potential impact of exposure to this content on others’ impressions of women and on women’s views of themselves. The goal of this review was to synthesize empirical investigations testing effects of media sexualization. The focus was...
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Although analyses indicate that mainstream media are a prominent force in the gender socialization of Black youth, little is known about the nature of gender messages in contemporary music, especially in music by Black artists. To explore this issue, we conducted a systematic content analysis of 527 top songs by Black artists released from 1990 to...
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The heterosexual script describes the set of complementary but unequal roles for women and men to follow in their romantic and sexual interactions. The heterosexual script is comprised of the sexual double standard (men want sex and women set sexual limits), courtship strategies (men attract women with power and women attract men through beauty and...
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Although everyday exposure to media content that sexually objectifies women is believed to lead women to sexualize themselves, research testing this connection has produced mixed results. Most studies have focused only on the selfobjectification component of self-sexualization, and on limited assessments of media exposure. Our goal was to extend te...
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Although previous research demonstrates that peers serve as top sexual informants and advisers, little is known about how peer sexual communications may be a gendered phenomenon. Do communications about sex and romantic relationships vary according to who is speaking to whom? The current study examined 517 college students' reports of male and fema...
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Workplace heterosexism is a pervasive issue affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees. This study investigated the influence of heterosexist media on hiring decisions by exposing 171 heterosexual undergraduate men to heterosexist rap music, nonheterosexist rap music, or no music and measuring their evaluations of a heterose...
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Although much attention concerning the potential impact of sexualized media has focused on girls and women, less is known about how this content effects boys' perceptions of women and courtship. Accordingly, the current three-wave panel study investigated whether exposure to sexualizing magazines predicts adolescent boys' (N = 592) sexually objecti...
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Given the heightened attention to visual impression management on social media websites, previous research has demonstrated an association between Facebook use and objectified body consciousness among adolescent girls and young women in various Western countries, including the U.S. (e.g., Meier and Gray 2013). The current study aimed to test whethe...
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The goal of the present study was to investigate the associations between exposure to different genres of romantic screen media and idealistic romantic beliefs. Participants were 625 college students who completed a survey that assessed exposure to 3 romantic screen media genres (marriage-themed reality TV, romantic-themed and subthemed [RTST] movi...
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Greenfield's () theory linking sociodemographic change to dynamic cultural values for family interdependence versus individual independence is applied to sexual and gender role socialization and development. The theory explains how cultural pathways for sexual and gender-role development transform in concert with sociodemographic changes: urbanizat...
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Because much of the existing research examining sexual communication to African American youth focuses on demographic and parental factors predicting sexual risk behaviors, less is known about factors predicting sexual health, and little is understood about the contributions of peer communications. The current study aimed to expand existing approac...
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This study examines the values in Latino young adults’ perceptions of messages about sex during their formative years and their current level of sexual exploration and sexual assertiveness. Latino young adults in college (N = 218) rated the prevalence of four types of messages they heard from parents and friends: Sex is only for marriage (procreati...
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Although research documents connections between adolescents' television exposure and both their physical and social aggression, less is known about contributions of reality television. Might this genre be even more influential than other media formats because it features real-life people and may be perceived as more realistic? To examine this quest...
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Receiving more parent sexual communication is generally linked to a later age of first sexual intercourse and less sexual risk taking. However, Asian American youth report minimal parent sexual communication, later sexual initiation, and fewer sexual risks than their counterparts. What contributes to this unexpected pattern of sexual communication...
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This article argues that formative sexual communications, and sexual attitudes and behaviors, are important foci in the exploration of the sexual health of young people. The study examines links among sexual messages received from parents and friends, the sexual attitudes of young men and women, and the sexual experiences of those youth. Analyses o...
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Contemporary women’s magazines are replete with scripts about sexual relationships and sexual roles for women. Our study used an experimental design to assess whether short-term exposure to a women’s magazine affected young women’s endorsement of sexual scripts commonly found in this genre, including scripts framing sexual intercourse as risky and...
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Although parents are assumed to be children's primary models of socialization when it comes to gender, little is known about direct communication of gendered values in the family. Accordingly, this study assessed the amount and content of recalled parental gender socialization messages using data from 291 U.S. college undergraduates attending a lar...
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Although research continues to highlight significant gender differences in first coital experiences, developmental approaches suggest that some of these patterns may be age-related. Therefore, this study investigated both gender and age differences in first intercourse experiences. Open-ended responses regarding reasons for, and descriptions of, fi...
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Efforts to link media use to adolescents' sexual initiation have produced somewhat inconsistent results, perhaps as a result of the limited framing of the question. This study sought to expand current approaches by sampling college students instead of high school students, by investigating a range of sexual behaviors and media formats, and by testi...
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Body dissatisfaction is normative among European American women, and involvement with predominant culture or linking self-worth to weight may intensify the association between body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness for women of color. Our study investigated whether orientation to other ethnic groups (Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure) and wei...
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Documented as heavy media consumers, Black viewers are often also assumed to be unselective, uncritical, and homogeneous. These assumptions were tested in an exploratory study of the nature and correlates of media use among 139 Black and 82 White students aged 11–14 years. Findings indicate that although Black adolescents may consume more media, th...
Conference Paper
Introduction: Women are inundated with sexual communication from an early age (Downie & Coates, 1999). Research tells us that sexual socialization messages are culturally bound. However, while some work has investigated the experiences of American young women, sexual socialization differences across cultures remain understudied. Accordingly, the pu...
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Gender socialization is the process by which children and youth learn cultural norms and expectations for gender roles. Because the mass media have played an increasing role in this process, analyses of media content can reveal how youth have been influenced over time. A review of research indicates that women (including youth) have been underrepre...
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Although research on sexual socialization continues to grow, still little is known about the processes by which youth learn about homosexuality and about how ethnicity and sex influence their learning experiences. To explore these issues, 745 undergraduates were interviewed and asked to indicate the amount and content of parental, peer, and media c...
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This study explored connections between media use and college students' attitudes of acceptance towards homosexuality (AATH). Data were collected from 1,761 undergraduates (62.7% female, MAge = 19 years). Results varied by the gender, ethnicity, and religiosity of the participants. Overall, greater media consumption among men and those who are high...
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These studies investigate connections between magazine reading and involvement and young people's sexual health knowledge, self-efficacy, intentions, and contraception use. Study 1 assessed sexual health behaviors and magazine reading among 579 undergraduate students (69% were female; 68% were White; M(age) = 19.73). As expected, more frequent read...
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Popular media and academic literature often portray men as happy beneficiaries of nonrelational or casual sex--a view that is consistent with traditional notions of masculinity. This study examined the validity of this notion, using semistructured interviews to explore ways that 19 college-age men defined and enacted "hooking up" and "friends with...
Conference Paper
Background: Risk-taking may be normative in adolescence and early adulthood, developmental periods of autonomy-seeking. However, sexual risk-taking may yield negative outcomes, including unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. Research on adolescent risk-taking suggests predictors such as early trauma (Smith et al.,...
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This study investigates the nature of college students' sexual health knowledge, prior sex education coverage, and sexual communication and confidence. We created a new, comprehensive sexual health knowledge measure to assess 347 undergraduates' knowledge of reproductive health, contraception, condom use, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and H...
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Research suggests that exposure to mass media depicting the thin-ideal body may be linked to body image disturbance in women. This meta-analysis examined experimental and correlational studies testing the links between media exposure to women's body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and eating behaviors and beliefs with a sample o...
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Because Latinos are underrepresented and often negatively stereotyped in the media, concern is frequently expressed that repeated exposure to these portrayals may reflect poorly on Latino adolescents' self-esteem. To test this issue empirically, we conducted 2 studies examining associations between multiple dimensions of self-esteem and several for...
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Although parents are often thought to be the primary communicators of sexual information, studies have found that many adolescent boys report receiving little or no parental communication about sex. Instead, boys report learning about sex mostly from their peers and the media. However, little is known about the content of these communications, from...
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Although parents greatly influence children’s early understandings of sexuality, little is known about how sexual communication transpires in Asian American families. Accordingly, the authors examined the amount and type of parental sexual communication recalled by 165 Asian American college students. Parents were perceived as providing very little...
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Although masculinity ideology (MI) has been shown to predict men’s sexual risk-taking, less is known about MI’s contribution to men’s beliefs about women and their sexual bodies. Accordingly, we examined associations between masculine ideology, media consumption, and men’s attitudes about women’s reproductive body functions among a sample of 656 un...
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This chapter discusses several ways in which the media may serve as a positive force in young women's sexual health and development through the information and models they provide and the opportunities they offer for validation and self-expression.