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Sex motives in adolescence : age and gender differences and the role of perceived mattering to friends. Penner, Niomie Elaine


The current study examined the applicability of an existing multidimensional sex motive typology with a young adolescent population (ages 13 – 18). As part of a larger longitudinal study, 394 adolescent students (195 male, 199 female) completed a self-report measure of sexual motives that had been developed for use with a slightly older adolescent and young adult sample. Of these students, 139 (76 male, 63 female) also completed a self-report measure of perceived mattering. Of interest was whether motives to engage in social sexual behaviour varied as a function of gender and grade level in a young adolescent population and whether such motives were related to self-perceptions of mattering to peers. Factor analyses completed separately for male/female and older/younger groups, indicated a less-differentiated, four-factor structure among sex motives reported by the younger adolescents (Grades 8 – 10) and by male students. Both the younger adolescent and male groups appear to differentiate less between peers and partners when engaging in social sexual behaviour to gain approval and avoid social censure. Results further indicated that endorsement of self-affirmation, peer approval, and partner approval motives for sexual behavior was similar across grade levels, whereas endorsement of enhancement and intimacy motives was higher at higher grades. In addition, male students reported more sex for enhancement, self-affirmation, and peer approval motives than did female students. Peer approval motives varied significantly as a function of grade level for female students only. Results of regression analyses indicated that over and above gender and grade, the more students felt that they mattered to peers, the less likely they were to report having sex to gain peer and/or partner approval. Results are discussed with reference to the theoretical and practical implications within the field of adolescent sexual health.

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