Psychometric Properties of the Sexual Attitudes Scale in a Sample of Unmarried Chinese Young Adults
He, Shanshan, Tsang, Sandra, Zou, Hong, Wu, Yibo, The Journal of Sex Research
One-fourth of the world's population lives in China and Chinese society is changing rapidly, including the attitudes of Chinese adults toward human sexuality. According to Ruan (1991), China actually has a long history of sexological exploration, and there is an abundance of relevant literature and art. For the first 4,000 years of Chinese history, the people of China adopted the philosophy ofyin yang and held very open and positive attitudes toward human sexuality, regarding it as a natural phenomenon in human life. However, the situation has changed in the past 1,000 years and, due to sexual oppression, the sexual attitudes of Chinese people have become more conservative (Ruan, 1991). Today, with China's economic reforms and development, Western culture has pervaded the country, and Western attitudes toward sexuality are particularly influential on the younger generation. Young people are curious about, and are quick to explore and even accept, new things. As a result of the one-child policy that was introduced in China at the end of the 1970s, most Chinese young people have grown up in single-child families. This one-child policy, together with traditional opinions that give preference to male offspring, and the misuse of prenatal screening to determine the gender of the fetus, have led to a serious imbalance in the sex ratio in China; in 2007, the ratio was reported as 120.2:100 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2007).
Global social problems, such as sexually transmitted infections (STI) and teenage pregnancies, are also great challenges in contemporary China (Gu & Renwick, 2008; Ji, Li, Lin, & Sun, 2007; Wang, 2007; Watts, 2008). In 2005, there were 650,000 people with HIV living in China, and the Chinese government has pledged to keep the total figure under 1.5 million by 2010 (Gu & Renwick, 2008). According to the latest statistical report from the Chinese Ministry of Health (Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China, 2008), in August 2008 the death rate from AIDS was still the highest (400 deaths, about 40%, out of 1,156 patients) among the 27 notifiable diseases. It is well-known that STIs, especially HIV, can be passed on by casual unprotected sex and having sex with individuals who are unaware of their STI or HIV status. The sexual attitudes and behavior of the younger generation, who are the future leaders of China, will have a substantial impact on future generations. Therefore, it is important to study the sexual attitudes of China's younger generation, as these have an influential bearing on their sexual behavior.
Studies of the Sexual Attitudes of Young Adults in Contemporary China
From 1949 to 1979, the study of sexuality in China was "in a phase of budding" (Deng, 2008, p. 6). Little valid data from empirical studies regarding the views of Chinese people on their sexuality and their sexual attitudes existed. Since the 1980s, sexological research in China has flourished in different fields including medicine, law, sexology, and sociology (Pei, Ho, & Ng, 2007). Sexual attitudes have been widely investigated in the different provinces of mainland China (Fan, Zhou, & Li, 2000; Hu, Liu, & Tang, 2001; Li et al., 2003; Xu, Shao, & Zhang, 2004; Yu & Zhao, 2004), in Hong Kong (HK Tertiary Institutions Health Care Work Group, 2002), and in several nationwide surveys (Liu, Ng, & Chou, 1995; Pan, 2000, 2004, 2006). Most of these indigenous studies about the sexual attitudes of young adults used samples of college students and investigated their attitudes toward premarital sex, chastity, masturbation, homosexuality, multiple sexual partners, and premarital cohabitation (Higgins & Sun, 2007).
These studies have contributed to the knowledge of human sexuality in China and have provided a fruitful context for further relevant research in this field. Of particular note is the work of two important scholars in China, Dalin Liu and Pan Suiming, who, in collaboration with colleagues, have conducted nationwide surveys of the sexual attitudes and behavior of Chinese people since the 1990s, and also undertook longitudinal studies to collect relevant data in 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, and 2006 (Liu et al., 1995; Pan, 2000, 2004, 2006). These scholars attempted to explore Chinese sexuality without adopting Western theories and, therefore, used survey instruments designed by Chinese researchers. For example, one of the Chinese self-designed questionnaires adopted by Pan (2000, 2004, 2006) was the "Chinese Colleges Students' Sexuality Investigation Questionnaire." One of the questions in this questionnaire, which was designed to measure Chinese people's attitudes toward chastity, was, "If you found out that your bride had had sexual intercourse with others before you were married, what reasons for this behavior would lead you to forgive the bride?" There were seven available responses to this question: "rape," "deceived," "just an impulse, no love," "loved the 'other' before, but do not love the 'other' now," "still love the 'other' now," "unforgivable no matter what the reason is," and "forgive her whatever the reason is." Other indigenous studies about the sexual attitudes of young adults, conducted in different areas of China, are consistent with the focus of these scholars, and these studies also used self-designed questionnaires for their surveys. These self-designed questionnaires were based on somewhat simple hypotheses about the construct of sexual attitudes, without any theoretical consideration, and were used, despite a lack of reported reliability and validity. For example, among the questions designed to measure the sexual attitudes of young adults in Hong Kong were, "I do not agree with premarital sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse)," and "Cohabitation is worth trying." The response scale for this questionnaire ranged from 1 (totally disagree) to 4 (totally agree) (HK Tertiary Institutions Health Care Work Group, 2002). Although these indigenous studies have provided much useful data, the varied questions used and the lack of reported validity and reliability regarding their instruments have made it difficult to conduct systematic and empirical studies of sexual attitudes in China.
The measurement of sexual attitudes needs to be both reliable and valid. Before developing completely indigenous instruments, we can first learn from well-developed Western instruments. However, rather than directly applying these instruments to the Chinese context, we should first examine their psychometric properties and assess their relationship to other variables of interest, such as sexual knowledge scores and sexual behavior.
The Sexual Attitudes Scale (SAS)
Since the 1950s, several scales have been developed to measure different aspects of sexual attitudes. These include the Reiss Male and Female Premarital Permissiveness Scales (Reiss, 1964), the Mosher Guilt Inventory (Green & Mosher, 1985), the Sexual Opinion Survey (Fisher, Byrne, White, & Kelly, 1988), and the SAS (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987).
The SAS, which was originally developed by Hendrick and Hendrick (1987), is a thorough, comprehensive, and widely used tool to measure attitudes toward different aspects of sexuality (Abbey, Parkhill, Clinton-Sherrod, & Zawacki, 2007; Beckwith & Morrow, 2005; Hendrick & Hendrick, 2006; Mezo & Heiby, 2004; Peter & Valkenburg, 2007; Snell, Fisher, & Walters, 1993) and is well-validated (Hendrick, Hendrick, & Reich, 2006; Le Gall, Mullet, & Shafighi, 2002). It is a 43-item scale comprising four dimensions related to attitudes toward sexuality: (a) Permissiveness (casual sexuality), (b) Instrumentality (biological sexuality), (c) Communion (idealistic sexuality), and (d) Sexual Practices (responsible, tolerant sexuality).
The scale was used with a French sample by Le Gall et al. (2002), who validated the scale and found that the original four-factor solution did not appear to be as stable as expected. They determined that at least five correlated factors were needed to account for their data and, therefore, divided the fourth factor of the original scale (Sexual Practices) into two distinct factors, Pleasure and Responsibility. The resultant five-factor, 22-item SAS included the factors of Permissiveness (six items), Responsibility (four items), Pleasure (four items), Instrumentality (four items), and Communion (four items). Le Gall et al. suggested that future research into sexual attitudes should focus on the extent to which their five-factor SAS had cross-cultural relevance and was applicable to populations in East Asia. Motivated by the work of Le Gall et al. and others, Hendrick et al. (2006) reanalyzed their original scale and developed a short, 23-item version that retained a four-factor structure. They also renamed the fourth factor (Sexual Practices) Birth Control. The validation and revision of the SAS is still continuing.
This study examined the SAS's psychometric properties, using an online survey with a sample of unmarried, Chinese young adults.
Two factors were taken into consideration in the decision to adopt this method: (a) The majority of Chinese young adults use the Internet (China Internet Network Information Center, 2006); and (b) the convenience and high speed of the Internet, and the perception of anonymity, would encourage respondents to be more open and answer sensitive questions, such as those relating to their sexuality (Binik, Mah, & Kiesler, 1999; Pealer & Weiler, 2000). Recent sexuality studies had successfully adopted the online survey method (Riggle, Whitman, Olson, Rostosky, & Strong, 2008; Ybarra, Espelage, & Mitchell, 2007).
This study focused on investigating the sexual attitudes of unmarried people. Sexuality is often explored in dating relationships and sanctioned in marriage relationships (Christopher & Sprecher, 2000). Sex and marriage are legally and morally linked in most societies, while premarital sex may not be. Although, to our knowledge, there is no direct evidence showing that sexual attitudes may differ between unmarried and married individuals, we believe that the sexual attitudes of unmarried people deserve independent study.
We used a convenience sampling method to approach potential participants, who were educated Chinese young adults aged between 18 and 40. First, the study's Web site, containing the online survey, was set up. Then, the researcher advertised the survey by various means, such as distributing flyers in the student dormitories in different universities of Beijing, posting advertisements on Web sites that were frequently visited by potential respondents (e.g., popular campus online forums), and seeking the help of college teachers to inform students about the survey. The college teachers recruited came from the author's academic network and from different provinces in China, such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Lanzhou, and Fujian. In addition to providing the online survey, the study's Web site also encouraged visitors to look through or to download some useful sex education material. The sex education material included sexuality articles by Chinese and Western scholars, sex education manuals for college students, and other sex education material in the form of electronic books, pictures, and PowerPoint files. Also, visitors to the Web site were invited to communicate with other visitors or with the researcher through the Web site's chat room and e-mail system.
The inclusion criteria were given on the entry page of the online survey, which stated that only adults aged between 18 and 40 were eligible to participate. This entry page had two hyperlinks, one for unmarried people and one for married people. Therefore, two sets of questionnaire data were obtained, one from unmarried respondents and one from married respondents (the latter were not included in these analyses).
Demographic information. The demographic and relevant relationship background information obtained in this section of the questionnaire included age, sex, educational level, previous romantic experiences (how many times the participant had been in a romantic relationship), and current relationship status (whether the participant was currently in a relationship; if yes, the participant was required to indicate the relationship categories). The three relationship categories were (a) early stage (the dating couple has been in a formal romantic relationship for at least three months), (b) exploring and love-struck stage (the dating couple has been in a formal romantic relationship for at least one year), and (c) established stage (the dating couple has intentions to get married).
SAS. The sexual attitudes measurement tool used in the study was a Chinese version of the SAS originally devised by Hendrick and Hendrick (1987) and later revised by Le Gall et al. (2002). In designing the Chinese version, the authors followed the guidelines proposed in the literature on cross-cultural methodology (Brislin, 1986) in terms of independent, blind, back-translation, educated translation, and small-scale pretests. The Chinese version was submitted as a pretest to 30 volunteers. The revised SAS (Le Gall et al., 2002) is a 22-item scale that includes the following factors: Permissiveness (six items), defined as a belief in casual, guilt-free sex (e.g., casual sex is acceptable); Responsibility (four items), defined as a belief in responsible but nonjudgmental sex (e.g., birth control is part of responsible sexuality); Pleasure (four items), defined as a belief in the capacity of sex to bring pleasure to people (e.g., sexual pleasure gets stronger as a relationship progresses); Instrumentality (four items), defined as a belief in biological and manipulative sex (e.g., sex is primarily a bodily function, like eating); and Communion (four items), defined as a belief in idealized sex (e.g., at its best, sex seems to be the merging of two souls). The factor items were rated on a five-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree). After reverse-coding the negatively worded items, the item scores of each factor were summarized to obtain a total score for the factor. High scores indicated a high level of acceptance of the factor.
Sexual knowledge. Sexual knowledge was measured by the sexual knowledge questionnaire of Meston, Trapnell, and Gorzalka (1998), which used the Sexual Information subscale of the Derogatis Sexual Functioning Inventory (Derogatis, 1978). A total of 25 items, focused on the biological aspects of sexuality (e.g., a woman cannot become pregnant after menopause), were adapted from Meston et al.'s 26-item version to facilitate the calculation of the item scores; the maximum possible score was 100, and each item had a value of four. The item, "Women desire sex as frequently as men," was deleted, as it was thought that this would be difficult to respond to without providing information about contextual factors (e.g., age). The response format was "true," "false," or "not sure." The item scores were summarized to obtain a total score according to the corrected answers of the researchers. The possible range of total summarized scores was from 0 to 100. High scores indicated a high level of sexual knowledge.
Sexual behavior. Three indicators of sexual behavior were included: the age at first experience of sexual intercourse, the number of previous sexual partners, and the number of current sexual partners.
As potential participants were informed of the study's Web site, they could freely choose whether to answer the questionnaires online without having to contact the researcher directly. After the participants had submitted their answers, they were asked to report the amount of time they had taken to complete the questionnaire; the average time reported was about 12 min. In addition, survey participants could obtain feedback on their sexual knowledge scores after they had submitted their answers. All of the data were gathered between September 2005 and February 2006. The first author's dissertation review committee reviewed this study for compliance with protection of human subjects.
The final sample included 1,213 educated, unmarried, Chinese young adults aged between 18 and 40 (M= 22.45, SD=2.54; 728 men and 485 women). Participants were asked to state the city where they currently lived and their place of origin. Forty-one percent of the participants currently lived in Beijing, 4.5% in Guangzhou, 3.2% in Shanghai, 2.2% in Harbin, and the remaining participants in other cities. They came from 32 provinces or regions of China, such as Beijing (16.1%), Guangdong (6.0%), Shandong (4.7%), Liaoning (4.6%; only the first four percentages were listed). They were distributed among three groups: 502 undergraduates (M= 20.60, SD=1.48; 278 men and 224 women), 465 postgraduates (M=23.55, SD=2.01; 267 men and 198 women), and 246 non-students, who said that they had graduated (M=24.52, SD=2.53; 183 men and 63 women). Unfortunately, participants were not asked to provide any information about where they had graduated from.
About one half of the participants in each of the three groups declared themselves to be currently in romantic relationships (45.9%, 51.9%, and 56.4% for the undergraduate group, the postgraduate group, and the non-student group, respectively). Of the participants who were currently in a romantic relationship, 63.1% were in the same city as their partners, and 36.9% were not; 21.0% were in "the early stage" of dating; 34.1% were in "the exploring and love-struck stage"; and 44.9% had reached "the established stage." When asked how many times they had been in a romantic relationship, 39.7% of the participants reported only once, 20.9% twice, 11.2% three to five times, 2.7% more than five times, and 25.5% of the participants said that they had never been in a romantic relationship before.
Information about sexual behavior (e.g., age at first experience of sexual intercourse), broken down by group and gender, is presented in Table 1. One's first sexual experience was defined as "first vaginal intercourse" in this study. The average age at which this first sexual experience occurred was 21.0 for the total sample; the average age was 19.3 for the undergraduate group, 21.7 for the postgraduate group, and 21.7 for the non-student group. According to the post hoc tests (least significant difference [LSD]), the initial sexual experience of the participants in the undergraduate group was significantly earlier than that of the participants in both the postgraduate and non-student groups, F(2, 475)=28.33, p <.001. There were no significant between-group differences in the number of current or previous sexual partners. The age at first sexual experience of female undergraduates was significantly higher than that of male undergraduates, and the number of current sexual partners reported by female postgraduates was significantly higher than that of male postgraduates. There were no significant gender differences in the non-student group.
The distribution of sexual knowledge scores, broken down by group and gender, and the t test results by gender within the three groups are shown in Table 2. Due to technical problems, the sexual knowledge scores of 163 participants were not obtained; therefore, the scores of 1,050 participants were analyzed. The mean score of the total sample was 64.6. The average sexual knowledge score was 61.3 for the undergraduate group, 66.9 for the postgraduate group, and 67.7 for the non-student group. According to the post hoc tests (LSD), the undergraduate group's sexual knowledge score was significantly lower than that of both the postgraduate and non-student groups, F(2, 1,047)=11.64, p < .001. The gender difference in sexual knowledge scores was significant in both the undergraduate and postgraduate groups, with men scoring higher in sexual knowledge than women. There was no gender difference in the non-student group.
To determine the construct validity of the SAS, confirmatory factor analysis was conducted on the entire sample, using the model proposed by Le Gall et al. (2002). The value of the goodness of fit index (GFI) was .90, the adjusted value was .87, and the chi-square value was 1,432 (df=179). The values of the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI), comparative fit index (CFI), and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) were .74, .78, and .08, respectively. The overall goodness of fit was not good; therefore, modification was needed.
The model was modified on the basis of the modification indexes (deleting the items for which the modification indexes were extremely high), and one item was deleted from each of four of the five factors (no items were deleted from Permissiveness). The items deleted were "the best sex is sex with no strings attached" (Responsibility), "sexual techniques get better as a relationship progresses" (pleasure), "sex is best when people approach it as a good physical release" (Instrumentality), and "people should at least be friends before they have sex together" (Communion). Then, confirmatory factor analysis was conducted on the entire sample using the modified model, which was still comprised of five factors. The overall goodness of fit of this model was better than that of the first version, and was satisfactory. The value of the GFI index was .95, the adjusted value was .93, and the chi-square value was 527 (df=123). The values of the TLI, CFI, and RMSEA were .90, .92, and .05, respectively.
The final validated 18-item model is presented in Table 3, which also shows the parameter estimates obtained in the confirmatory factor analysis and the correlated coefficients of the five factors. The five factors retained were Permissiveness (six items), Responsibility (three items), Pleasure (three items), Instrumentality (three items), and Communion (three items).
The highest levels of correlation were between Permissiveness and Instrumentality (.48) and Pleasure and Communion (.55). As Responsibility was also significantly correlated with Pleasure and Communion (both .22), two second-order factors were identified using confirmatory factor analysis; following the work of Le Gall et al. (2002), these were Sex centered on self and Sex centered on the relationship. We assumed that Permissiveness and Instrumentality were closer to Sex centered on self and that Pleasure, Responsibility, and Communion were closer to Sex centered on the relationship. An additional confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to verify this assumption, and the overall goodness of fit was reasonably good. The value of the GFI index was .95, the adjusted value was .93, and the chi-square value was 609 (df=128). The values of the TLI, CFI, and RMSEA were .88, .90, and .06, respectively.
Regarding the internal consistency of this validated 18-item SAS, the alpha values of the different factors were as follows: Permissiveness=.78, Communion= .68, Responsibility=.57, Instrumentality=.49, and Pleasure=.38. The alpha values of Permissiveness and Communion were acceptable, and the value of Responsibility was relatively weak but marginally acceptable. Instrumentality and Pleasure had low alpha values and, therefore, may not be acceptable, according to the psychometric requirement suggested by DeVellis (2003). Consequently, Instrumentality and Pleasure were not included in the following data analyses.
Comparison of the Data of this Study With the Findings of Le Gall et al. (2002)
Table 4 shows the comparison between the results of this study (Chinese sample) and the results of the French study by Le Gall et al. (2002; young adults who were under 30 years of age). As can be seen, the respondents in the Chinese sample appeared to be less permissive, more responsible, and more interested in Communion than those in the French sample.
The Relationship Between Demographic and Background Variables and SAS Scores
A mean score was computed for the three factors of the SAS by averaging the scores of the items on each factor. One-way analyses of variance were conducted separately on gender, participant group, and relationship status (see Table 5). The relationship status variable included two groups--namely, "not currently in a romantic relationship" and "currently in a romantic relationship." Significant gender differences were found for all three factors of sexual attitudes, the difference being strongest for Permissiveness. As noted, Permissiveness belonged to the second-order factor of Sex centered on self, and the findings indicated that men were more likely than women to endorse this sexual attitude, F(1, 1,202)=118.26, p < .001. The results were inconsistent with regard to Sex centered on the relationship--more women than men endorsed Responsibility, F(1, 1,208) = 24.33, p < .001; fewer women than men endorsed Communion, F(1, 1,202) = 22.59, p < .001. According to the post hoc tests (LSD), the non-student group was more likely to endorse Permissiveness than the other two groups, F(2, 1,201) = 8.31, p < .001, while the undergraduate group was less likely to endorse Communion than the other two groups, F(2, 1,201)= 6.97, p < .01. Concerning relationship status, participants who were not currently in a romantic relationship were more likely to endorse Permissiveness (Sex centered on self) than those who were currently in a romantic relationship, F(1, 1,172)=8.40, p<.01; whereas participants who were currently in a romantic relationship were more likely to endorse Communion (Sex centered on the relationship) than those who were not currently in a romantic relationship, F(1, 1,172) = 14.09, p < .001.
Correlations of Sexual Attitudes, Sexual Knowledge Scores, and Sexual Behavior
The correlations among the three sexual attitude factors, the sexual knowledge scores, and the three types of sexual behavior are shown in Table 6. Sexual knowledge scores were significantly correlated with all three sexual attitude factors. Permissiveness was negatively correlated with the age at first sexual experience and positively correlated with both the number of previous and current sexual partners. Communion, which was shown to belong to the second-order factor of Sex centered on the relationship, was significantly correlated with the number of current sexual partners.
The main purpose of this study was to examine the psychometric properties of the SAS and to explore the sexual knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of a sample of unmarried Chinese young adults. After modification based on the SAS model's modification indexes, which entailed the deletion of four items, the final model had a better overall goodness of fit than the first version. The final five-factor model of sexual attitudes, which had 18 items, could fit the data gathered from a sample of Chinese young adults. These factors were Permissiveness (six items), Responsibility (three items), Pleasure (three items), Instrumentality (three items), and Communion (three items). Due to the extreme high modification indexes, with the exception of the Permissiveness factor, one item was deleted from each of the factors. The reasons for the high modification indexes may be the unrelated content for the Pleasure and Communion factors, or a possible translation problem for the Instrumentality factor. The item deleted from the Responsibility factor of the original model was somewhat different in content from the other three items in this factor, which mainly related to birth control. Therefore, we suggest that, just as the Sexual Practices factor was renamed by Hendrick et al. (2006), Responsibility should be renamed Birth Control.
In addition, two second-order factors, Sex centered on self and Sex centered on the relationship, were identified through confirmatory factor analysis; this finding is consistent with that of Le Gall et al. (2002). Permissiveness and Instrumentality belonged to Sex centered on self, and the other three factors belonged to Sex centered on the relationship. However, this second-order model did not fit the data as well as the final five-factor model, possibly because Responsibility was put into Sex centered on the relationship. As most of the items for this factor are related to birth control, it may not be appropriate to put this factor into either of the second-order categories.
Only three factors (Permissiveness, Responsibility, and Communion) of the five-factor model had acceptable internal consistency. Pleasure was extracted from the original Sexual Practices factor (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987), and its alpha value was low (.38). Sexual Practices was modified in both of the recent revisions of SAS (Hendrick et al., 2006; Le Gall et al., 2002). In one study (Le Gall et al., 2002), it was broken down into two factors, Responsibility and Pleasure; and in the other (Hendrick et al., 2006), it was renamed Birth Control. Therefore, the original Sexual Practices factor seems to be unstable and in need of improvement and further testing. The low alpha value of the Pleasure factor in this study may be due to the small number of items (three) for this factor and inconsistent item content. However, this factor refers to the amount of pleasure that people think sex brings to their lives. As physical pleasure is one of the most important aspects of sexuality in any society (Reiss, 2006), the factor of Pleasure is worth retaining. It is recommended that researchers either add additional relevant and clearer items to this factor and test them further, or use the original full-length SAS and follow the same procedure as was followed in this study. As Permissiveness and Communion have acceptable reliability and validity, these two factors can be applied independently in future studies, as suggested by Hendrick and Hendrick (1987).
Comparing our findings with those of Le Gall et al. (2002) suggests intercultural differences between Chinese and French young people related to three aspects of sexual attitudes. The Chinese respondents appeared to be less permissive, more responsible, and more interested in communion (refers to idealistic sexual attitudes) than the French sample. Le Gall et al. found that, compared to respondents in an American sample (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987), respondents in their French sample appeared to be more permissive and less interested in communion. The Chinese respondents in our study had relatively conservative and relationship-centered sexual attitudes compared to those of the French sample; this is consistent with the findings of another Chinese study (Higgins & Sun, 2007), and reflects the cultural differences on the SAS.
The results showed that one factor, Permissiveness (Sex centered on self), was positively correlated with both the number of current and previous sexual partners, indicating that attitudes and behavior are, to some extent, consistent. Reiss (2006) noted that, "being aware of this correlation is very useful because it is often far easier to ask attitude questions than to ask behavior questions" (p. 209). However, we should remind ourselves that this correlation is not perfect. In this study, the correlation between the Permissiveness factor and the number of previous sexual partners was .30. Other important factors that may be related to behavior, such as beliefs, values, personalities, and external influencing factors, require further exploration.
The results also demonstrated that people who were currently in a romantic relationship were less likely to endorse Permissiveness (Sex centered on self) and more likely to endorse Communion (Sex centered on relationship) than people who were not currently in a romantic relationship. This finding is consistent with the findings of previous studies (Hendrick et al., 2006; Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987; Le Gall et al., 2002).
The results of subgroup differences in the aspects of sexual knowledge, attitudes, and behavior showed that the undergraduate group reported a significantly lower sexual knowledge score, earlier age of first sexual intercourse, and endorsed less Communion than the other two groups (postgraduate and non-student groups). Xu et al. (2004) found that the resources of sexual knowledge provided by schools or parents were very limited for Chinese undergraduates. In our study, the average sexual knowledge score of the undergraduates group was 61.3 (the maximum possible score was 100).
This study represents one of the attempts in China to pioneer the use of the online survey method to examine, the sexuality and sexual attitudes of Chinese young adults. The similarity of the reliability and validity findings in this Chinese sample and those of the French sample (Le Gall et al., 2002) suggests the validity of the online survey method. Some of the results on the reliability and validity of the SAS in this study were very similar to those of previous studies (e.g., Le Gall et al., 2002), which adopted the paper-and-pencil method. Confirmatory factor analysis showed that the overall goodness of fit of the five-factor SAS model proposed by Le Gall et al. was moderately high when applied in a Chinese sample. This was similar to the indexes of the final model in the Le Gall et al. study. In a comparison of paper-and-pencil and online administration procedures, Chang (2005) found that the rating scores were influenced by the survey method, but the validity and reliability were not.
Limitations of the Study
First, the adaptation of a Western instrument to a Chinese context has some limitations. Factors unique to a Chinese culture (e.g., reflecting the communal nature of Chinese societies) may not be represented in the SAS. Future qualitative research could investigate whether items reflecting indigenous beliefs or attitudes about sexuality should be added to the SAS. Second, although using the online survey in sexuality studies potentially has many advantages, it is also the case that possible problems may be introduced using this method-for example, sampling biases (Binik et al., 1999; Turner & Turner, 1998), low response rates, and incomplete survey submissions (Pealer & Weiler, 2000). The participants in this study came from different provinces in China, and their ages ranged from 18 to 40, but they were not selected by probability sampling and, therefore, cannot be said to represent all unmarried Chinese young adults. Third, individuals who were willing to participate in such a sensitive survey might be more open-minded than others and more accepting of their own sexuality. Finally, because the participants were encouraged to look through or download sex education material from the Web site, as one of the incentives to participate in the survey, they may have gleaned knowledge from the Web site that could have affected their attitudes and this, therefore, may have biased the results.
Implications of the Study
This study has implications for research, theory building, and service planning. With regard to research, this study focused on a hard-to-approach subject in China. Future studies should verify the four- or five-factor model of sexual attitudes among Chinese people and also consider adding some unique factors relevant to Chinese culture. As Hendrick and Hendrick's (1987) multidimensional SAS has been widely used, it would be worth revising and testing this in future studies. It would also be interesting to relate sexual attitudes to other variables, such as decisions about condom use and marriage, to gain a better understanding of human sexuality.
With regard to theory building, the SAS adopted in this study was empirically developed and did not have an explicit theoretical framework (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987). However, this study verified the model and extracted two second-order dimensions, one directed toward self and one toward relationships, which have implications for future research. Researchers could incorporate indigenous beliefs about sex in the further development of the measure, based on this two-construct model.
Finally, this study demonstrated that one's experience of love is significantly correlated with one's sexual attitudes. Sex education in China, although not ignoring romantic love, does not encourage students to become involved in romantic love, nor does it teach them how to cope with relationships with romantic partners. In the future, sex education practitioners in China could consider adding content about the relationship between love and sex into sex education material or courses.
In summary, this study has made the following contributions to sexuality research: First, it has established the psychometric properties and cultural relevance of an internationally established instrument in a Chinese sample. Second, it has extended our knowledge on the sexual attitudes and behavior of young Chinese adults, filling a significant gap in this important area.
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Shanshan He and Sandra Tsang
Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong
Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University
We thank Yibo Wu for his computer technical support for this study and setting up the research Web site.
Correspondence should be addressed to Shanshan He, Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Room 1304, K.K.L. Bldg., The University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lain Rd., Hong Kong. E-mail: email@example.com
Table 1. Reported Sexual Behavior in the Three Subgroups (Undergraduates, Postgraduates, and Non-Students) Undergraduates Sexual behavior Total Male Female t Age at first sexual M 21.02 19.01 19.63 -1.32 * experience (n = 478) SD 3.26 3.28 1.68 Previous sexual M 2.08 2.26 1.35 1.22 partners (n = 489) SD 3.77 5.80 1.53 Current sexual M 0.84 1.19 0.78 0.71 partners (n = 489) SD 1.85 4.64 0.45 Postgraduates Sexual behavior Male Female t Age at first sexual 21.67 21.71 -0.1 experience (n = 478) 3.00 2.20 Previous sexual 2.05 1.88 0.41 partners (n = 489) 3.40 2.15 Current sexual 0.75 0.86 -1.48 ** partners (n = 489) 0.58 0.44 Non-Students Sexual behavior Male Female t Age at first sexual 22.09 20.34 2.45 experience (n = 478) 4.09 2.27 Previous sexual 2.41 2.49 -0.93 partners (n = 489) 3.93 4.82 Current sexual 0.74 0.87 -1.31 partners (n = 489) 0.53 0.47 Note. N = 1,213. p < .05. ** p < .01. Table 2. Distribution of Sexual Knowledge Scores and Gender t Tests Within the Three Groups Sexual Knowledge Variable Scores Total (N=1,050) M 64.62 SD 19.81 Undergraduates Male (n = 248) M 65.45 SD 19.72 Female (n = 214) M 56.58 SD 21.05 t 4.67 * Postgraduates Male (n = 224) M 70.71 SD 17.92 Female (n = 176) M 62.14 SD 19.75 t 4.54 * Non-students Male (n = 144) M 69.31 SD 16.62 Female (n = 44) M 62.64 SD 18.72 t 2.26 * p < .05. Table 3. Results of Confirmatory Factor Analyses Factors Items I II III Casual sex is acceptable 0.75 I would like to have sex with 0.75 many partners It is OK to have ongoing 0.66 sexual relationships with more than one person at a time Using sex toys during 0.34 lovemaking is acceptable It is OK to manipulate someone 0.72 into having sex, as long as no future promises are made Life would have fewer problems 0.48 if people could have sex more freely Birth control is part of 0.66 responsible sexuality A man should share 0.63 responsibility for birth control Sex education is important for 0.39 young people Sex is primarily physical 0.25 Sex is primarily a bodily 0.33 function, like eating Sex is more fun with someone 0.67 you don't love Sex is the closest form of communication between two people A sexual encounter between two people deeply in love is the ultimate human interaction At its best, sex seems to be the merging of two souls Sexual pleasure gets stronger as a relationship progresses Life without sex would be very dull During sexual intercourse, intense awareness of the partner is the best frame of mind I: Permissiveness 1.00 II: Responsibility 0.00 1.00 (sexual practices) III: Instrumentality 0.48 ** -0.07 * 1.00 IV: Communion 0.15 ** 0.22 ** 0.01 V: Pleasure 0.23 ** 0.22 ** 0.12 ** (sexual practices) Factors Items IV V Casual sex is acceptable I would like to have sex with many partners It is OK to have ongoing sexual relationships with more than one person at a time Using sex toys during lovemaking is acceptable It is OK to manipulate someone into having sex, as long as no future promises are made Life would have fewer problems if people could have sex more freely Birth control is part of responsible sexuality A man should share responsibility for birth control Sex education is important for young people Sex is primarily physical Sex is primarily a bodily function, like eating Sex is more fun with someone you don't love Sex is the closest form of 0.67 communication between two people A sexual encounter between two 0.73 people deeply in love is the ultimate human interaction At its best, sex seems to be 0.57 the merging of two souls Sexual pleasure gets stronger 0.41 as a relationship progresses Life without sex would be very 0.44 dull During sexual intercourse, 0.43 intense awareness of the partner is the best frame of mind I: Permissiveness II: Responsibility (sexual practices) III: Instrumentality IV: Communion 1.00 V: Pleasure 0.55 ** 1.00 (sexual practices) * p < .05. ** p < .001. Table 4. Comparison of the Sexual Attitudes Scale Means for This Sample With the Le Gall, Mullet, and Shafighi (2002) Sample Chinese French Sample Sample Items M SD M SD It is OK to have ongoing 1.71 1.05 3.19 1.33 sexual relationships with more than one person at a time I would like to have sex with 2.39 1.37 3.43 1.22 many partners Casual sex is acceptable 2.66 1.30 3.31 1.37 Using sex toys during 2.99 1.17 2.45 1.33 lovemaking is acceptable It is OK to manipulate someone 2.67 1.30 3.13 1.18 into having sex, as long as no future promises are made Life would have fewer problems 2.27 1.20 3.03 1.20 if people could have sex more freely Birth control is part of 4.62 0.64 4.13 1.11 responsible sexuality A man should share 4.59 0.66 4.43 0.91 responsibility for birth control Sex education is important for 4.73 0.58 4.33 0.91 young people A sexual encounter between two 3.78 1.17 3.46 1.18 people deeply in love is the ultimate human interaction Sex is the closest form of 3.64 1.19 3.19 1.25 communication between two people At its best, sex seems to be 4.10 0.93 3.86 1.04 the merging of two souls Items t It is OK to have ongoing -14.96 *** sexual relationships with more than one person at a time I would like to have sex with -11.01 *** many partners Casual sex is acceptable -6.29 *** Using sex toys during 5.40 *** lovemaking is acceptable It is OK to manipulate someone -5.08 *** into having sex, as long as no future promises are made Life would have fewer problems -8.34 *** if people could have sex more freely Birth control is part of 6.11 *** responsible sexuality A man should share 2.35 * responsibility for birth control Sex education is important for 6.02 *** young people A sexual encounter between two 3.56 *** people deeply in love is the ultimate human interaction Sex is the closest form of 4.74 *** communication between two people At its best, sex seems to be 3.07 ** the merging of two souls * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001. Table 5. Means and F Ratios of Sexual Attitudes Scale Subscales as a Function of Background Variables Variable n Permissiveness Responsibility Gender F = 118.26 * F = 24.33 * Men 728 2.65 4.59 Women 485 2.13 4.73 Participant group F = 8.31 * F = 0.58 Undergraduates 502 2.40 4.65 Postgraduates 465 2.39 4.66 Non-students 246 2.64 4.62 Relationship status F = 8.40 ** F = 1.70 Not currently in 588 2.52 4.63 a romantic relationship Currently in a 594 2.38 4.67 romantic relationship Communion Gender F = 22.59 * Men 3.93 Women 3.70 Participant group F = 6.97 * Undergraduates 3.74 Postgraduates 3.93 Non-students 3.88 Relationship status F = 14.09 * Not currently in 3.75 a romantic relationship Currently in a 3.94 romantic relationship * p < .001. ** p < .0l. Table 6. Correlations Between the Sexual Attitudes Scale and Sexual Knowledge Scores, and Sexual Behavior Sexual Attitudes Scale Other Measures Permissiveness Responsibility Communion Sexual knowledge scores .26 ** .17 ** .19 ** Sexual behavior Age at first sexual -.14 * -.10 -.03 experience Previous sexual .30 * -.05 .06 partners Current sexual .14 * .02 .14 ** partners * p < .001. ** p < .01.…
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Publication information: Article title: Psychometric Properties of the Sexual Attitudes Scale in a Sample of Unmarried Chinese Young Adults. Contributors: He, Shanshan - Author, Tsang, Sandra - Author, Zou, Hong - Author, Wu, Yibo - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Sex Research. Volume: 47. Issue: 4 Publication date: July-August 2010. Page number: 269+. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.