Recently, attention has focused on the role that exposure to sexual content in the media may play in the development of adolescents' sexual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Previous research relevant to understanding this issue, however, cannot be considered definitive. In particular, none of the available studies have used longitudinal research designs that can address whether exposure to sexual content in the media precedes changes in adolescents' sexual knowledge, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors. In order to better address this issue; we propose to undertake two closely inter-related studies of sexual content on television. Study I will be a content analysis of the sexual language and images in television programming. In addition to documenting the extent and nature of sexual content on television, Study I will also provide information to be used in developing measures of exposure for Study 2. Study 2 will be a longitudinal survey of adolescents (aged 11-16 at Wave 1) and their parents. The samples will be selected from the greater San Francisco Bay Area and from Los Angeles County using random digit dialing (PDD) methods. Study 2 will be implemented using a combination of three yearly in-home computer assisted personal interviews (CAPI) and one yearly interim mail survey. The primary objective of Study I is to document the nature and frequency of sexual content on television overall, by program type, and by genre. The primary objective of Study 2 is to investigate if exposure to, awareness of, and affect toward sexual content on television influences changes in adolescent sexual knowledge, expectancies, norms, intentions, and behaviors. A secondary objective of Study 2 is to test and extend a theoretical model of media effects that was developed in the context of alcohol advertising. This model specifies how the effects of exposure to media content on beliefs, knowledge, and behavior are mediated through affective and cognitive processes and how these relationships are moderated by important personal, environmental, and message variables. The overall goal of the proposed research is to ascertain if, and under what circumstances, sexually related, content in television programming predisposes young people to engage in sexual activity. This study will thus provide important information that can help guide policy and prevention efforts to reduce adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and related problems.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-SNEM-3 (01))
Program Officer
Newcomer, Susan
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
United States
Zip Code
Ragsdale, Kathleen; Bersamin, Melina M; Schwartz, Seth J et al. (2014) Development of sexual expectancies among adolescents: contributions by parents, peers and the media. J Sex Res 51:551-60
Collins, David; Saylor, Brian; Johnson, Knowlton (2014) Community Influence on Youth's Use of Inhalants and Other Legal Products to Get High in Rural Alaska. J Child Adolesc Subst Abuse 23:253-261
Bourdeau, Beth; Grube, Joel W; Bersamin, Melina M et al. (2011) The role of beliefs in sexual behavior of adolescents: Development and validation of an Adolescent Sexual Expectancies Scale (ASEXS). J Res Adolesc 21:
Bersamin, Melina M; Bourdeau, Beth; Fisher, Deborah A et al. (2010) Television Use, Sexual Behavior, and Relationship Status at Last Oral Sex and Vaginal Intercourse. Sex Cult 14:157-168
Fisher, Deborah A; Hill, Douglas L; Grube, Joel W et al. (2009) Televised sexual content and parental mediation: Influences on adolescent sexuality. Media Psychol 12:121-147
Bersamin, Melina; Todd, Michael; Fisher, Deborah A et al. (2008) Parenting practices and adolescent sexual behavior: A longitudinal study. J Marriage Fam 70:97-112
Bersamin, Melina M; Fisher, Deborah A; Walker, Samantha et al. (2007) Defining virginity and abstinence: adolescents'interpretations of sexual behaviors. J Adolesc Health 41:182-8
Fisher, Deborah A; Hill, Douglas L; Grube, Joel W et al. (2007) Gay, lesbian, and bisexual content on television: a quantitative analysis across two seasons. J Homosex 52:167-88
Bersamin, Melina M; Walker, Samantha; Fisher, Deborah A et al. (2006) Correlates of Oral Sex and Vaginal Intercourse in Early and Middle Adolescence. J Res Adolesc 16:59-68
Bersamin, Melina M; Walker, Samantha; Waiters, Elizabeth D et al. (2005) Promising to wait: virginity pledges and adolescent sexual behavior. J Adolesc Health 36:428-36

Showing the most recent 10 out of 11 publications