Does true love wait? : religion, pledging and the premarital sexual behavior of married adults

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Date

2006-05

Authors

Uecker, Jeremy

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Abstract

Most studies of premarital sex use a simple “did-they-or-didn’t-they” approach to the topic. Recent evidence, however, suggests there may be an important distinction between premarital sex—sex with a future spouse—and what has been termed “pre- premarital sex”—sex with someone other than a future spouse. Not only are those who have pre-premarital sex at higher risk for marital dissolution, they are also more likely to have physical health problems such as STDs and cervical cancer. Factors that lead to premarital and pre-premarital sex, however, are not well understood. Using a sample of married adults from Waves I and III of Add Health, I evaluate the effect of religion and abstinence pledging on the incidence of both premarital and pre-premarital sex. Further, I examine their influence on the number of sex partners among respondents who do have pre-premarital sex. My results indicate that premarital and pre-premarital sex are widespread even among religious Americans and those who sign abstinence pledges. Still, multinomial logit modeling and zero-truncated negative binomial regression reveal that religious individuals and abstinence pledgers (1) are more likely to abstain from sex before marriage, (2) are more likely to have only premarital sex versus pre-premarital sex, and (3) report fewer lifetime sex partners when they do have pre-premarital sex.

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