A survey of 1,792 young people aged 12-17 in the United States has found that adolescents who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as those who watched the least amount of television with sexual content.
The study, conducted by the Rand Corporation and published in the September 2004 issue of the journal Pediatrics, is believed to provide the strongest evidence yet of a link between the sexual content of
television programmes and subsequent sexual activity. Rand psychologist, Rebecca Collins a member of the research team, said that the impact of television viewing on subsequent behaviour was so large that “even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behaviour”.
Television programmes in which the characters merely talked about sex (61 per cent of all programmes ) had a similar impact on adolescent behaviour as programmes that overtly portrayed sexual
activity (32 per cent of all programmes).
The Rand study also found that young people were less likely to initiate sexual intercourse if they lived with both parents, if their parents did not approve of them having sexual relations, if their parents monitored their activities, if they were religious, and if they were in good mental health. Adolescents who fell into this category were less likely to be exposed to sexual content on television in any case, but even where they were, they remained less likely to engage in sexual activity. The researchers concluded: “Reducing the amount of sexual talk and behaviour on TV or the amount of time that adolescents are exposed to this content is likely to appreciably delay the initiation of both coital and non-coital sexual activities.”
Source: Family Education Trust.