Attitudes toward Marriage and Premarital Sexual Activity of College Freshmen

Article excerpt

In a review of the most recent research on adolescent sexual activity, White and DeBlassie (1992) noted that a number of factors were associated with sexual attitudes and behavior of unmarried youths. These included age, gender, religion, coming from a broken or intact home, parental communication and discipline, sibling constellation, peer relationships, social policy, and a variety of personality traits.

Attitudes toward marriage has also been identified as a possible correlate of adolescent sexual activity. Kahn and London (1991) hypothesized that people with more conservative marital attitudes emphasizing responsibility and sacrifice would be less disposed toward premarital sexual intercourse and divorce than would those with more liberal marital attitudes emphasizing personal freedom and happiness.

In the only research that could be located on the topic, Murstein and Holden (1979) found in a multidimensional inquiry that there was no significant difference between virgins and nonvirgins during late adolescence and early adulthood on Waiters, Parker, and Stinnett's (1972) Favorableness of Perceptions Concerning Marriage Scale. Nevertheless, the possible connection between attitudes toward marriage and premarital sexual relationships seemed important enough to justify repeating this aspect of the Murstein and Holden (1979) investigation with certain modifications.

The purpose of the current study was to examine the relationship between attitudes toward marriage and premarital sexual activity of college freshmen. It was hypothesized that virgins would have more positive attitudes than would nonvirgins. In addition, it was hypothesized that nonvirgins who had only one sex partner would fall between these groups. That is to say their marital attitudes would be less positive than those of virgins and more positive than those of nonvirgins with multiple sex partners.



A sample of 1,000 students was drawn randomly from the freshman class of a large Southern university. Of these, questionnaires were mailed to 955 students for whom addresses could be obtained; completed questionnaires were returned by 387, a response rate of 41%. In addition, those responders who were less than 18 or more than 19 years old and who were currently married or had previously been married were excluded from the study. Thus, the final sample consisted of 143 males and 198 females.


In order to maximize the response rate, the first mailing was followed by a second to those who had not returned the questionnaire. Both mailings included addressed and stamped return envelopes.


A general information sheet furnished data on age, gender, marital status, and history of sexual relationships. The subjects were divided into three groups: virgins, nonvirgins with histories of only one sex partner, and nonvirgins with histories of more than one sex partner.

Attitudes toward marriage were measured with Hill's (1951) Favorableness of Attitudes toward Marriage Scale (FAMS). The original FAMS consisted of nine items which were scored on a two-point scale. A number of alterations were made to the original FAMS. The words "if you marry" were substituted for the words "when you marry" to avoid the notion that marriage was inevitable. In addition, items one to seven were scored on a four-point scale. Items eight and nine were left on a two-point scale.

The nine items on the modified FAMS were as follows: (1) If you marry, to what extent will you miss the life you had as a single person? (2) In your opinion, to what extent will it trouble you to give up your personal freedom if you marry? (3) In your opinion, would adjustment to married life be difficult for you? (4) Do you ever have doubts as to whether you would enjoy living exclusively in marriage with a member of the opposite sex? (5) In your opinion, to what extent would the responsibilities of married life be enjoyable to you? …