Online Program

Religion and sex: Sexual health knowledge and attitudes among college students at a catholic institution

Monday, November 4, 2013

Anne Marie Schipani, MPH candidate, Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, GA
Kelly Marin, Ph.D, Department of Psychology, Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY
This mixed-methods study sought to understand sexual health knowledge and religion's role in sexual decision-making among college students (N=80) attending an urban Catholic college. Evidence suggests that students attending Catholic universities engage in sex despite the institution's religious affiliation advocating against premarital sex and contraception. Additionally, college students attending Catholic affiliated institutions lack the knowledge and resources needed to make informed sexual choices. This study employed the social cognitive theory to understand how students' sexual health knowledge corresponds with self-efficacy in sexual decision-making. Researchers developed a sexual health knowledge survey on contraception, abstinence, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which also included open-ended questions on sexual decision-making and religion. Hypotheses were that students would have low overall sexual health knowledge and that their knowledge will vary across sexual health topics. Results showed that participants knew less about HIV/AIDS and STIs than they did about reproductive health, contraception, and abstinence. Considering college students comprise a vulnerable adolescent subgroup at risk for HIV and STI transmission, it is alarming that participants had inadequate knowledge on HIV/AIDS and STIs. Qualitative findings revealed that students feel shameful for their decision to engage in sex, indicating that Catholic college teachings against premarital sex may lead to internalized shame among students. Findings also show that personal morals, rather than religion, guide the foundation for their sexual decision-making. This study can inform future sexual health education and communication interventions for college students attending religious universities to improve sexual health knowledge and self-efficacy in sexual decisions.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain why college students at a Catholic college may feel stigma for engaging in sexual activity. Discuss possible reasons why students had higher knowledge in reproductive health, contraception, and abstinence than in HIV/AIDS and STIs. Develop a plan for providing sexual health resources to college students at a Catholic college.

Keyword(s): College Students, Religion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Master of Public Health candidate studying behavioral sciences and health education, and I have worked as a graduate research assistant on a federally funded grant focusing on sexual health beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. My scientific interest has been the development of faith-based sexual health education interventions for emerging adults.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.