November 5, 2008

New Yorker magazine features research on evangelicals and teen pregnancy by Mark Regnerus using Add Health data

Research on religion as an indicator of sexual behavior, by University of Texas-Austin sociologist Mark Regnerus, appeared in The New Yorker magazine. The research uses data from Add Health.

“Regnerus argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical. The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage. (Only half of mainline Protestants, and a quarter of Jews, say that they believe in abstinence.) Moreover, among the major religious groups, evangelical virgins are the least likely to anticipate that sex will be pleasurable, and the most likely to believe that having sex will cause their partners to lose respect for them. (Jews most often cite pleasure as a reason to have sex, and say that an unplanned pregnancy would be an embarrassment.) But, according to Add Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual debut”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.” (Talbot, Margaret. November 3, 2008. Red sex, blue sex: Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant? In The New Yorker.)

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This article is based on research published as the following:

Regnerus, M.D., Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007.