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Research has shown an increase in risk behaviors (e.g., binge drinking, risky driving, or unprotected sex) during emerging adulthood, a developmental period between the ages of 18 and 25 (Arnett, 2000). Sexual risk-taking is of particular concern due to negative consequences (e.g., unintended pregnancy, contracting a sexually transmitted infection) of this behavior becoming more prevalent, especially among college students (e.g., Turchik & Garske, 2009). The current study investigated how peer norms and personal beliefs about health may work together to explain engagement in sexual risk behavior among college students. It was hypothesized that in the context of strongly held health beliefs (e.g., high perceived susceptibility), the relationship between perceived peer norms surrounding sexual risk behavior and one’s engagement in risk behavior would weaken, while in the context of weakly held health beliefs (e.g., low perceived susceptibility), the relationship between perceived peer norms and ones engagement in risk behavior would strengthen. Further, it was hypothesized that the relationship between perceived peer norms surrounding sexual risk behavior and one’s engagement in risk behavior would be explained by low levels of health belief variables. One hundred and fifty six undergraduates (48 male, 108 females) anonymously completed questionnaires online about personal beliefs about health, personal and perceived peer engagement in sexual risk behavior, and demographics. Hierarchical multiple regression using SPSS tested if the positive association between perceived peer norms and sexual risk behavior was moderated by privately held health beliefs. Bootstrapping (Preacher & Hayes, 2008) was used to test mediation hypotheses. No support was found for health beliefs to moderate or mediate the association between peer norms and sexual risk behavior. There was a strong and consistent direct effect of peer norms on sexual risk behavior across all analyses.

Publication Date

4-24-2019

Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Jackson A Goodnight

Primary Advisor's Department

Psychology

Keywords

Stander Symposium poster

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Presenter: Cassandra L Hartman

Perceived Peer Norms, Health Beliefs, and Their Links to Sexual Risk Behavior Among College Students

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