Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

The Relationship of Sexual Values and Emotional Awareness to Sexual Activity in Young Adulthood

Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

The Relationship of Sexual Values and Emotional Awareness to Sexual Activity in Young Adulthood

Article excerpt

A sample of 170 college freshman completed assessments related to emotional awareness, sexual values, and levels of sexual activity. There was a significant relationship between sexual values and sexual activity. Abstinence values appear to be important in the decision to engage in sexual activity.


Sexual values have been found to influence sexual behavior (Blinn-Pike, 1999; Miller, Norton, Fan, & Christopherson, 1998). The decision to initiate sexual activity appears to be multifaceted, including interpersonal, intrapersonal (Cauffman & Steinberg, 1996; Michels, Kropp, Eyre, & Halpern-Felsher 2005), environmental (Forste & Haas, 2002), and spiritual factors (Meier, 2003; Ott, Pfeiffer, & Fortenberry, 2006). Evidence also supports the idea that emotional intelligence, and specifically emotional awareness, is linked to the quality of interpersonal relationships in young adults and adolescents (Davidson & Gottlieb, 1955; Harrod & Scheer, 2005; Livingstone & Day, 2005; Moriarty, Stough, Tidmarsh, Eger, & Dennison, 2001; Shaughnessy & Shakesby, 1992). In light of the links that have been established between sexual behavior, sexual values, and interpersonal relationships, research is needed to assess the sexual activity of young adults as it relates to their emotional awareness and sexual values. The purpose of this study is to fill this gap in the hope of providing clinicians and young adults with a means to conceptualize decision making related to sexual activity within the young adult population. An overview of research specifically focused on identity development, emotional development, sexual values, and sexual activity research related to young adults is presented to address how emotional awareness and sexual values may be pertinent to the decision of young adults to be sexually active.


Young adult development is multifaceted. Several developmental perspectives have described the various aspects of the process. For instance, Erickson (1963, 1968, 1982) outlined psychosocial identity formation as the central theme underlying adolescent development in the period leading up to adulthood. Individuals struggle to overcome the conflicts between identity, referring to an inner sense of wholeness within the self, and identity diffusion, referring to uncertainty about oneself and behaving aimlessly. Occupational, ideological, and sexual issues are focal points of an identity crisis. Individuals strive to achieve a congruent outward expression of the inner self and to fit in with society.

Young adults must rely on the competence, purpose, and determination they have gained by overcoming crises in prior stages of development to successfully overcome identity diffusion (Erickson, 1968, 1982). Identity is created when people are able to (a) make decisions and behave according to their own value system, (b) connect previous experiences and goals for the future to decisions made in the present, and (c) balance their own expectations for their life and the expectations that others have for them.

While Erickson (1963, 1968, 1982) highlighted a psychosocial model of development in stages, Havighurst (1972, 1975) emphasized developmental tasks. According to Havighurst (1972), inner forces, such as somatic maturity and personal goals, and outer forces, including pressure from society, work collaboratively to form tasks for individuals to overcome during adolescence and young adulthood. Havighurst (1972, 1975) further stated that the central focus of these tasks is to provide a means to achieve a sense of self-esteem, obtain the required skills to develop oneself in the future, and identify with one's inner identity.

An alternative view of young adult development is Marcia's (1966, 1980) descriptive model. Marcia (1966, 1980) categorized approaches that adolescents and young adults use to address identity conflicts, yet did not include tasks or crises to overcome. …

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