Collins, R.L., Elliot, M.N., Berry, S.H. et Al. (2004). Watching Sex on Television Predicts Adolescent Initiation of Sexual Behavior

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Collins, R.L., Elliot, M.N., Berry, S.H. et al. (2004). Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 114, e280-e289.

It is estimated that the average teenager watches about 3 hours of television every day and, as Collins et al. point out, many of the television programs that teens watch have some form of sexual content. A number of previous studies have found a link between onset of sexual activity and TV viewing but these studies did not adequately control for the multitude of other factors that likely also influence teen sexuality. In their study, Collins et al. used multivariate regression analysis involving over a dozen factors often correlated with the onset of adolescent sexual activity in a longitudinal survey that examined the relationship between adolescents exposure to sexual behaviour as well as talk about sex on TV and the likelihood that teens became sexually active during the study period.

The sample for the study consisted of 1792 U.S. adolescents aged 12 to 17. The sample was over three quarters white and nearly two thirds had a parent who had been educated beyond high school and one third had a parent with a college degree (level of education is a key indicator of socio-economic status). Study participants were interviewed by telephone in the spring of 2001 and again in the spring of 2002. The survey measured TV viewing habits, sexual behaviour, and a wide range of demographic and psychosocial variables. With respect to sexual content on TV watched by teens, the authors generated a list of prime time TV programs that are popular among teens (e.g., reality shows, sitcoms, dramas) and "... the amount of sexual content was calculated as the average number of scenes per episode containing a major focus on sexual behavior plus the average number of scenes containing a major focus on talk about sex" (p.282). For the baseline interview, teens were asked how often they watched the 23 programs selected for the study with responses on a 4-point scale ranging from "never" to "every time it's on." At each interview respondents were asked if they had ever had vaginal intercourse as well as a range of other sexual behaviours.

Bivariate analysis indicated that "... a diet of TV high in sexual content at baseline was strongly related to initiation of intercourse and advancement of noncoital activity in the following year" (p. …