Date of Award

Spring 5-2-2005

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Kathleen Gathercoal, PhD

Second Advisor

Paul Kennedy, PhD

Third Advisor

Nancy Thurston, PhD


Several studies have examined the intrinsic factors, including fear of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, which motivate adolescents to choose sexual abstinence. Currently, little research has been dedicated solely to the extrinsic/social factors, which may also be influential in the decision to abstain from pre-marital sex. Four social factors were presumed to be especially influential, supporting a decision to be sexually abstinent and four social factors were presumed to be significant, challenging the choice to adopt a sexually-abstinent-untilmarriage life style. The proposed supportive social factors include: (a) Parental influence, (b) Peer influence, ( c) Religious affiliation/membership, ( d) Personal relationship with God. The proposed challenging social factors include: (a) Peer pressure to engage in sexual activity, (b) Pressure from a dating partner, (c) Media Influence, (d) Alcohol use. The opinions of adolescents towards these social factors and their influence on adolescents' decision to remain sexually abstinent was presumed to vary depending on age, and gender. Fourteen hundred and forty surveys completed by adolescents who attended a one-day abstinence seminar were evaluated. Questions related to the social factors they assert to be most influential in an abstinence decision were analyzed. Results revealed that 94.6% of the sample reported a commitment to abstinence. Out of the four supportive social factors hypothesized, a personal relationship with the Lord was perceived by respondents to be the most supportive (87.2%) followed by affiliation with a church or synagogue (81.3%), friends (76.9%), and finally parents (61.9%). Out of the four challenging social factors hypothesized, media pressure was found to be most challenging (47.9%) followed by peer pressure (45.2%), pressure from a dating partner (19.2%), and alcohol (17%). Significant age and gender differences were found including results suggesting that females receive more support from friends to be abstinent then males and that peer pressure increases with age. Overall, results indicate that support from a church as well as a relationship with God are more important supportive factors in a commitment to abstinence then friends or parents for all age and gender groups. For this sample, parents are among the least supportive factors indicating a lack of communication and the need for parent training in order to improve discourse between adolescents and parents about sexual issues.