Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 190–202 | Cite as

Ethnic Differences in Sexual Attitudes of U.S. College Students: Gender, Acculturation, and Religiosity Factors

  • Tierney K. Ahrold
  • Cindy M. Meston
Original Paper


Although it has been hypothesized that culture and religion play an important role in sexuality, the relative roles of acculturation and religiosity on ethnic differences in sexual attitudes have not been often empirically explored. The present study assessed differences in sexual attitudes in Euro-American, Asian, and Hispanic American populations using measures of acculturation to analyze the relative effects of heritage and mainstream cultures, as well as religiosity, within each ethnic group. A total of 1,415 college students (67% Euro-American, 16% Hispanic, 17% Asian; 32% men, 68% women) completed questionnaires which assessed attitudes towards homosexuality, gender role traditionality, casual sex, and extramarital sex. In concordance with previous studies, Asians reported more conservative sexual attitudes than did their Hispanic and Euro-American peers. Hispanics reported sexual attitudes similar to that of Euro-Americans. For both Hispanic and Asians, higher acculturation predicted sexual attitudes similar to that of Euro-Americans. For Asian, Hispanic, and Euro-American women, there was a significant interaction between intrinsic religiosity and spirituality such that the relationship between conservativism of sexual attitudes and intrinsic religiosity was stronger at higher levels of spirituality. In Euro-Americans and Asians, intrinsic religiosity and religious fundamentalism strongly predicted conservative sexual attitudes; while still significant, these relationships were not as pronounced in the Hispanic sample, implying an ethnic-by-religious effect. Novel to this study, acculturation did not mediate the relationship between religiosity and sexual attitudes, indicating that ethnic differences in religiosity effects were distinct from acculturation.


Ethnic differences Gender differences Acculturation Religiosity Sexuality Asian Hispanic Euro-American 



The authors would like to acknowledge Ruth Andrew and Melissa Farmer for their help in the literature review and preparation of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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