Sexual double standards and adolescent peer acceptance


Kreager, Derek; A; & Staff, Jeremy (2008). Sexual double standards and adolescent peer acceptance. 2008 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Population Center.


The belief that males and females are held to different standards of sexual conduct is pervasive in contemporary American society. According to the sexual double standard, males are rewarded and praised for premarital and heterosexual sexual contacts, while females are derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors. Although widely held by the general public, research findings on the sexual double standard remain equivocal, with qualitative studies generally finding evidence of the double standard and attitudinal surveys and experimental designs showing mixed results. In this study, we extend prior research by directly measuring the social status of permissive youth. We use data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to relate adolescents’ self-reported numbers of sexual partners to friendship nominations received from peers at school. Results suggest that a strong double standard exists in adolescence, such that greater numbers of sexual partners are positively related to male peer acceptance, but negatively related to female peer acceptance. Moreover, this pattern is moderated by students’ socioeconomic status; disadvantaged males are most likely to gain status with increased sexual partners, while high-SES females are least likely to do so. Our results thus support the existence of an adolescent sexual double standard and suggest that sexual norms vary substantially by both gender and social class.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2008 Add Health Users Conference


Kreager, Derek
Staff, Jeremy

Year Published



University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carolina Population Center

City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID