Previous studies had pointed to a connection between exposure to sex in the media and early sex among teens.
Temple psychologist Laurence Steinberg study reevaluated data from a widely publicized 2006 study published in Pediatrics that claimed that adolescents between 12 and 14 who consumed a large amount of sexualized media - including movies, television, music and magazines - were more likely to have sex by age 16.
But Steinberg says that the original study did not fully take into account the fact that adolescents who are already interested in sex will choose to consume more sexualized media; instead of media consumption being responsible for interest in sexual activity, it's actually the other way around.
In his reevaluation, Steinberg analyzed the existing data by using a more statistically conservative approach, which controlled for adolescents' propensity to be exposed to sexualized media.
That propensity was determined by factoring in data collected on other aspects of the teens' lives, including school performance, religiousness, parental relationships, and perceptions of friends' attitudes about sex.
When controlling for these additional variables, the link between exposure to sexualized media and the earlier onset of sexual activity disappears.
The Study has been published this month in the online version of Developmental Psychology.