The Influence of Religion on Adolescent Sexuality Within North America

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The Influence of Religion on Adolescent Sexuality within North America This paper discusses the influence religion has on the sexual behaviours of adolescents in North America. It looks at the decisions religious North American adolescents makes in regards to at what age they choose to engage in sexual intercourse for the first time, if they participate in premarital sex and whether or not they choose to use contraceptives compared to non-religious North American adolescents. I will argue that teens who identify with a specific religious denomination choose to engage in their first sexual experience at a later age, don’t participate in premarital sex as often and are less likely to use contraceptives compared to adolescents who do not identify with a specific religion. Religion is heavily integrated into our society, shaping our values, norms and laws and yet many religious groups believe in essentialism over social constructionism. They tend to believe that our decisions, morals and values are not shaped by our social interactions, which I find is controversial because it is quite obvious that people who identify with a specific religious denomination follow the beliefs of that denomination (Steele, 2005, p. 14). The way they think, speak and act, for many, are heavily influenced by their religious beliefs – but isn’t that the point of religion? Therefore, I think religious groups or individuals are a prime example of social constructionism at it’s finest. One aspect religions tend to take a strong stance on is sexuality (Di Mauro & Joffe, 2007, p.70). The beliefs of what is appropriate or acceptable varies from religion to religion, yet overall I would assume that, regardless of the religion, it has a big impact on when and under what circumstances adolescents choose to engage in their first sexual experiences. A study done in 2008 looked at family religiosity and adolescent sexual activity and determined how they are associated. The study found that parent religiosity was significantly related to adolescent sexual activity and possessed a direct negative correlation, meaning that an increase in parent religiousity lead to a decrease in adolescent sexual activity (Erum, Logan, Manlove & Moore, 2008, p.112). The results showed that adolescents between the ages of 12-17 with parents who did not identify as religious were sexuality active 16% more frequently than adolescents whose parents did identified with a certain religion. It was also revealed that religious teens engage in their first sexual experience 8% later than non-religious adolescents (Erum, Logan, Manlove & Moore, 2008, p.113). The reasons for these results are numerous. This specific study found one of the largest reasons was because religious adolescents have a closer connection with their families and their parents often have a stronger influence over their actions and decisions. By teens possessing a close relationship with their parents their parents are much more aware of what is going on in their life and can guide them more easily to make the decisions they believe to be right (Erum, Logan, Manlove & Moore, 2008, p.112). In many religions it is taught and believed that virginity is suppose to be saved for marriage. This belief would obviously be a prominent one in influencing a religious individual to wait for marriage before having sex, which in North America often comes at a later age – being beyond 12-17 years old (Di Mauro & Joffe, 2007, p.70). Greater than the parents influence is the peer’s influence. The individuals who reported as sexually active also reported much higher levels of their peers participating in negative behaviours. The ‘negative behaviours’ identified were smoking, getting drunk, using drugs, being involved with gangs and skipping school. Sexually active teens reported any where from 20-40% more frequently that their peers participated in negative behaviours on a regular basis (Erum, Logan, Manlove &...
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