What is the impact of viewing movie sex on adolescents? A just published study in the journal Psychological Science found that the age a child is first exposed to sex in movies is related to later sexual risk taking

In a longitudinal study, the researchers first asked 10 to 14-year-olds about movies they have viewed. The researchers had already measured the sexual content of the movies. They then followed the children, surveying them every 8 months. In the later surveys they measured such things as sexual behavior, including the first time the adolescents had sexual intercourse, and condom use. 

The results found that early exposure to movie sex predicted the age at which adolescents first had sexual intercourse (those exposed early to movie sex had first intercourse at an earlier age), and risky sexual behavior (defined as multiple partners and no condom use).

The researchers conclude that monitoring and restricting children’s movie (and TV) viewing might delay adolescents early sexual activities and reduce risky sex. They also suggest incorporating the issue of media sex into safe-sex programs for adolescents might be effective in promoting safer adolescent sexual behavior.


O’Hara, R.E., Gibbons, F.X., Gerrard, M., Li, Z, & Sargent, J.D. (2012). Greater exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Earlier Sexual Debut and Increased Sexual Risk Taking. Psychological Science (published on-line July 2012).

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