, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 144-154
Date: 02 Mar 2010

Differences in Engaging in Sexual Disclosure Between Real Life and Cyberspace Among Adolescents: Social Penetration Model Revisited

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To date, relatively few studies have begun to explore adolescents’ sexual self-disclosure in cyberspace. Rare research has taken a close look at differences in adolescents’ sexual self-disclosure occurring in real life and cyberspace. The social penetration model suggests that an individual’s level of sexual disclosure should be in accordance with relationship intimacy in real life. The current study investigated whether the effects of relationship intimacy on adolescents’ willingness to disclose sexual history differ in terms of sex and communication environment (real life vs. cyberspace). A total of 419 Taiwanese adolescents completed a survey about their willingness to communicate on different sexual topics in the contexts of varying levels of relationship intimacy. The results showed that in real life both male and female adolescents showed a parallel relationship between willingness to engage in sexual disclosure and relationship intimacy, supporting predictions according to the social penetration model. However, in cyberspace, male adolescents exhibited a greater willingness to communicate, regardless of degree of relationship intimacy, whereas females revealed a U-shape trend regarding the effect of relationship intimacy on willingness to communicate. These findings indicate that sexual disclosure on the part of adolescents in cyberspace departs from the perspective of the social penetration model.