Past research has indicated that marriage attitudes may influence sexual
behavior for adolescents. Now, new research from the University of
Missouri, has found that attitudes and desires about marriage can place
young people on trajectories toward or away from healthy sexual
This is the first study to investigate links between marriage
attitudes and sexual behavior across racial and ethnic minority groups
as well as the role skin tone plays in shaping marriage attitudes.
‘Skin tone plays a role in views toward relationships and marriage, thus impacting decisions about sexual behavior for some people.’
Risky sexual behaviors among adolescents and young adults has long
been a major public health concern, due to their prevalence and negative
consequences for health, such as increased risk for sexually
transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, and cervical cancer.
"Understanding the impact of marriage and cohabitation attitudes on
decisions about sex is important because this work may help scholars and
professionals better understand how such beliefs impact behaviors,"
said Antoinette Landor, assistant professor in the College of Human
Environmental Sciences. "Further, examining what early factors influence
risky sex can lead to better prevention."
Landor, along with Carolyn Tucker Halpern, professor in the Gillings
School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina,
analyzed surveys from nearly 7,000 adolescents from diverse backgrounds
to determine sexual behaviors and attitudes about monogamous
According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, non-Caucasians remain at higher risk for sexually
transmitted disease compared to Caucasians. Thus, they considered data
on race, skin tone, sexual behavior and personal interest in marriage
for the study.
Researchers found that positive attitudes toward marriage had a
significant dampening effect on risky behaviors for lighter-skinned
African Americans and Asians compared with their darker skin
counterparts, who had more negative attitudes toward marriage. The
findings suggest that skin tone plays a role in views toward
relationships and marriage, thus impacting decisions about sexual
behavior for some people.
"These findings offer important implications for policy and
prevention," Landor said. "Rather than just focusing on skill building,
clinicians and educators could develop materials that promote healthy
attitudes toward romantic relationships which could ultimately encourage
healthy decision-making and behaviors. Results also suggest that skin
tone may be a culturally relevant factor to consider in public health
campaigns involving sexual health among minority groups."
"The Enduring Significance of Skin Tone: Linking Skin Tone,
Attitudes toward Marriage and Cohabitation, and Sexual Behavior," was
published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence
. The research
was supported by funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development and by the Carolina