Sex Roles

, Volume 66, Issue 1–2, pp 38–52 | Cite as

Maternal Attachment and Television Viewing in Adolescents’ Sexual Socialization: Differential Associations Across Gender

Original Article


The present study explores whether gender and maternal attachment moderate the relationship between television viewing and adolescents’ sexual and gender stereotypical attitudes. A quantitative survey was conducted among 1,026 Belgian adolescents in a targeted sample of nine schools (Mean age = 16.3). Findings show that greater exposure to television among boys and lower maternal attachment among boys and girls is associated with more liberal and stereotypical sexual attitudes. While maternal attachment has a buffering effect on the relationship between television viewing and sexual attitudes among girls, maternal attachment has a risk-increasing effect among boys. Further research is needed to explore more fully the emergence of gender differences in the influence of maternal attachment and television viewing on adolescents’ sexual development.


Television viewing Maternal attachment Sexual stereotypes Adolescent Gender 


  1. Abbey, A. (1982). Sex differences in attributions for friendly behavior: Do males misperceive females’ friendliness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 830–838. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.42.5.830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Alexander, A. (1985). Adolescents’ soap opera viewing and relational perceptions. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 29, 295–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allen, J. P., McElhaney, K. B., Kuperminc, G. P., & Jodl, K. M. (2004). Stability and change in attachment security across adolescence. Child Development, 75, 1792–1805. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00817.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Armsden, G., & Greenberg, M. (1987). The inventory of parent and peer attachment: Individual differences and their relationship to psychological well-being in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 16, 427–454. doi:10.1007/BF02202939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory of mass communications. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp. 121–153). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Beentjes, H., Konig, R., & Krzeszewski, D. (2008). Muziekvideo’s en seksuele opvattingen: een enquête onder jongeren [Music videos and sexual attitudes: A survey among adolescents]. Tijdschrift voor Communicatiewetenschap, 36, 234–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354–364. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.88.4.354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bischof, G., Stith, S., & Wilson, S. (1992). A comparison of the family systems of adolescent sexual offenders and nonsexual offending delinquents. Family Relations, 41, 318–323. doi:10.2307/585197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowlby, J. (1977). The making and breaking of affectional bonds. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 130, 201–210. doi:10.1192/bjp.130.3.201.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss (Vol. 3). New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  12. Bozon, M., & Kontula, O. (1997). Initiation sexuelle et genre: Comparaison des évolutions de douze pays européens [Sexual initiation and gender: Comparison of changes in twelve European countries]. Population, 52, 1367–1400. doi:10.2307/1534632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brown, J. D., L’Engle, K. L., Pardun, C. J., Guo, G., Kenneavy, K., & Jackson, C. (2006). Sexy media matter: Exposure to sexual content in music, movies, television, and magazines predicts black white adolescents’ sexual behavior. Pediatrics, 117, 1018–1027. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-1406.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brutsaert, H. (1999). Coeducation and gender identity formation: A comparative analysis of secondary schools in Belgium. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20, 343–353. doi:10.1080/01425699995308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Buckingham, D., & Bragg, S. (2004). Young people, sex and the media. The facts of life? London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Psychological Review, 106, 675–713. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.106.4.676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. (2003). HIV/AIDS surveillance in adolescents. Retrieved from
  18. Chapin, J. R. (2000). Adolescent sex and mass media: A developmental approach. Adolescence, 35, 799–811.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Claes, M. (1998). Adolescents’ closeness with parents, siblings, and friends in three countries: Canada, Belgium, and Italy. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27, 165–184. doi:0047-2891/98/0400-0165J15.00/0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cohen, J. (2001). Defining identification: A theoretical look at the identification of audiences with media characters. Mass Communication & Society, 4, 245–264. doi:10.1207/S15327825MCS0403_01.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Creatsas, G. K. (1993). Sexuality: Sexual activity and contraception during adolescence. Current Opinion in Obsterics and Gynecology, 5, 774–783.Google Scholar
  22. Dawson, J. F., & Richter, A. W. (2006). Probing three-way interactions in moderated multiple regression: Development and application of a slope difference test. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 917–926. doi:10.1016/S0021-9010(06)61901-8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. De Bens, E., & de Smaele, H. (2001). The inflow of American television fiction on European broadcasting channels revisited. European Journal of Communication, 16, 51–76. doi:10.1177/0267323101016001003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. De Bens, E., Kelly, M., & Bakke, M. (1992). Television content: Dallasification of culture. In K. Siune & W. Truetzschler (Eds.), Dynamics of media politics (pp. 73–100). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. De Gaston, J. F., & Weed, S. (1996). Understanding gender differences in adolescent sexuality. Adolescence, 31, 217–230.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Dittus, P. J., & Jaccard, J. (2000). Adolescents ‘perceptions of maternal disapproval of sex: Relationship to sexual outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 26, 268–278. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(99)00096-8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Doyle, A. B., Lawford, H., & Markiewicz, D. (2009). Attachment style with mother, father, best friend, and romantic partner during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 19, 690–714. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2009.00617.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Durham, M. G. (1999). Girls, media, and the negotiation of sexuality: a study of race, class, and gender in adolescent peer groups. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 76, 193–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Eggermont, S. (2004). Television viewing, perceived similarity, and adolescents’ expectations of a romantic partner. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 48, 244–265. doi:10.1207/s15506878jobem4802_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Eggermont, S. (2006). The impact of television viewing on adolescents’ sexual socialization. (Doctoral dissertation). Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.Google Scholar
  31. Epstein, M., & Ward, L. M. (2008). “Always use protection”: Communication boys receive about sex from parents, peers and the media. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, 113–126. doi:10.1007/s10964-007-9187-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Epstein, M., & Ward, L. M. (2011). Exploring parent-adolescent communication about gender: Results from adolescent and emerging adult samples. Sex Roles, 65, 108–118. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-9975-7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Eyal, K., & Finnerty, K. (2009). The portrayal of sexual intercourse on television: how, who, and with what consequence? Mass Communication & Society, 12, 143–169. doi:10.1080/15205430802136713.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Farrar, K., Kunkel, D., Biely, E., Eyal, K., Fandrich, R., & Donnerstein, E. (2003). Sexual messages during prime-time programming. Sexuality & Culture, 7(3), 7–37. doi:10.1007/s12119-003-1001-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Fasula, A. M., & Miller, K. S. (2006). African-American and Hispanic adolescents’ intentions to delay first intercourse: parental communication as a buffer for sexually active peers. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 193–200. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2004.12.009.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Field, A. (2006). Discovering statistics using SPSS. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  37. Fingerson, L. (2005). Do mothers’ opinion matter in teens’ sexual activity? Journal of Family Issues, 26, 947–974. doi:10.1177/0192513X04272758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Fisher, D. A., Hill, D. L., Grube, J. W., Bersamin, M. M., Walker, S., & Gruber, E. L. (2009). Televised sexual content and parental mediation: influences on adolescent sexuality. Media Psychology, 12, 121–147. doi:10.1080/15213260902849901.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Frederickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. A. (1997). Objectification Theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Fromme, R. E., & Emihovich, C. (1998). Sexuality, and prevention boys will be boys: Young males’ perceptions of women. Education and Urban Society, 30, 172–188. doi:10.1177/0013124598030002003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Galambos, N. L., Almeida, D. M., & Petersen, A. C. (1990). Masculinity, feminity, and sex role attitudes in early adolescence: Exploring gender intensification. Child Development, 61, 1905–1914. doi:10.2307/1130846.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hair, J. F., Anderson, R. E., Tatham, R. L., & Black, W. C. (Eds.). (1992). Multivariate data analysis. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  43. Hendrick, S., & Hendrick, C. (1987). Multidimensionality of sex attitudes. Journal of Sex Research, 23, 502–526. doi:10.1080/00224498709551387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Huesmann, L. R. (1988). An information processing model for the development of aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 14, 13–24. doi:10.1002/1098-2337(1988)14:1<13::AID-AB2480140104>3.0.CO;2-J.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Johnson, C. B., Stockdale, M. S., & Saal, F. E. (1991). Persistence of men’s misinterpretations of friendly cues across a variety of interpersonal encounters. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15, 463–475. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1991.tb00421.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kaestle, C. E., Halpern, C. T., & Brown, J. D. (2007). Music videos, pro wrestling, and acceptance of date rape among middle school males and females: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, 185–187. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2006.08.010.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kalof, L. (1999). The effects of gender and music video imagery on sexual attitudes. The Journal of Social Psychology, 139, 378–385. doi:10.1080/00224549909598393.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kim, J. L., Sorsoli, L., Colins, K., Zylbergols, B. A., Schooler, D., & Tolman, D. L. (2007). From sex to sexuality: Exposing the heterosexual script on primetime network television. Journal of Sex Research, 44, 145–157. doi:10.1080/00224490701263660.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Krahé, B., Scheinberger-Olwig, R., & Kolpin, S. (2000). Ambiguous communication of sexual intentions and the prediction of sexual aggression. Sex Roles, 42, 313–337. doi:10.1023/A:1007080303569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kunkel, D., Farrar, K. M., Eyal, K., Biely, E., & Donnerstein, E. (2007). Sexual socialization messages on entertainment television: Comparing content trends 1997–2002. Media Psychology, 9, 599–622. doi:10.1080/15213260701283210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Laible, D. (2007). Attachment with parents and peers in late adolescence: Links with emotional competence and social behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1185–1197. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.03.010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Lanis, K., & Covell, K. (1995). Images of women in advertisements: Effects on attitudes related to sexual aggression. Sex Roles, 32, 639–649. doi:10.1007/BF01544216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lehr, S. T., Dilorio, C., Dudley, W. N., & Lipana, J. A. (2000). The relationship between parent- adolescent communication and safer sex behaviors in college students. Journal of Family Nursing, 6, 180–196. doi:10.1177/107484070000600206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. L’Engle, K. L., & Jackson, C. (2008). Socialization influences on early adolescents’ cognitive susceptibility and transition to sexual intercourse. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 18, 353–378. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2008.00563.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lodewijckx, E. (1987). First intercourse, contraception and first pregnancy in Flanders: Changes during the past 30 years. Journal of Biosocial Science, 19, 439–452. doi:10.1017/S0021932000017089.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lottes, I. L., & Kuriloff, P. J. (1994). Sexual socialization differences by gender, Greek membership, ethnicity and religious background. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 203–219. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1994.tb00451.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Manning, W. D., Longmore, M. A., & Giordano, P. C. (2005). Adolescent’s involvement in non-romantic sexual activity. Social Science Research, 34, 384–407. doi:10.1016/j.ssresearch.2004.03.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Markham, C. M., Lormand, D., Gloppen, K. M., Peskin, M. F., Flores, B., Low, B., et al. (2010). Connectedness as a predictor of sexual and reproductive health outcomes for youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46, S23–S41. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.11.214.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Martino, S., Collins, R., Kanouse, D., Elliot, M., & Berry, S. (2005). Social cognitive processes mediating the relationship between exposure to television’s sexual content and adolescent’s sexual behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 914–924. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.914.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Miller, B. C., Brenson, B., & Galbraith, K. A. (2001). Family relationships and adolescent pregnancy risk: A research synthesis. Developmental Review, 21, 1–38. doi:10.1006/drev.2000.0513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Moore, J. N., Raymond, M. A., Mittelstaedt, J. D., & Tanner, J. F. (2002). Age and consumer socialization agent influences on adolescents’ sexual knowledge, attitudes, and behavior: Implications for social marketing initiatives and public policy. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 21, 37–52. doi:10.1509/jppm. Scholar
  62. Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2006). Adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit material on the internet. Communication Research, 33, 178–204. doi:10.1177/0093650205285369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2010). Processes underlying the effects of adolescents’ use of sexually explicit internet material: The role of perceived realism. Communication Research, 37, 375–399. doi:10.1177/0093650210362464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Reiss, I. A. (1956). The double standard in premarital sexual intercourse: A neglected concept. Social Forces, 34, 224–230. doi:10.2307/2574041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rivadeneyra, R., & Lebo, M. J. (2008). The association between television-viewing behaviors and adolescent dating role attitudes and behaviors. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 291–305. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2007.06.001.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Rosenthal, D., Moore, S., & Flynn, I. (1991). Adolescent self-efficacy, self-esteem and sexual-risk taking. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 1, 77–88. doi:10.1002/casp.2450010203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schoentjes, E., Deboutte, D., & Friedrich, W. (1999). Child sexual behavior inventory: A Dutch-speaking normative sample. Pediatrics, 104, 885–893. doi:10.1542/peds.104.4.885.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schooler, D., Sorsoli, C. L., Kim, J. L., & Tolman, D. L. (2009). Beyond exposure: A person-oriented approach to adolescent media diets. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 19, 484–508. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2009.00604.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sensoa. (2011). Seksualiteit, ontwikkeling en adolescenten [Sexuality, development and adolescence]. Retrieved from
  70. Serbin, L., Powlishta, K. K., Gulko, J., Martin, C. L., & Lockheed, M. E. (1993). The development of sex typing in middle childhood. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 58(2), 1–95. doi:10.2307/1166118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Sigal, J., Gibbs, M., Adams, B., & Derfler, R. (1988). The effect of romantic and non-romantic films on perception of female friendly and seductive behavior. Sex Roles, 19, 545–554. doi:10.1007/BF00289734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Smirles, K. E. (2004). Attributions of responsibility in cases of sexual harassment: The person and the situation. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34, 342–365. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2004.tb02551.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Snell, W. E., Jr. (1998). The Stereotypes about Male Sexuality Scale. In C. M. Davis, W. L. Yarber, R. Baurerman, G. Schreer, & S. L. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of sexuality-related measures: A compendium (2nd ed., pp. 463–465). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  74. Strouse, J. S., Buerkel-Rothfuss, N., & Long, E. C. J. (1995). Gender and family as moderators of the relationship between music video exposure and adolescent sexual permissiveness. Adolescence, 30, 505–520.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Taris, T. W., & Semin, G. R. (1998). How mother’s parenting styles affect their children’s sexual efficacy and experience. The Journal of Generic Psychology, 159, 68–81. doi:10.1080/00221329809596135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Tolman, D. L., Striepe, M. I., & Harmon, T. (2003). Gender matters: Constructing a model of adolescent sexual health. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 4–12. doi:10.1080/00224490309552162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Vervloessem, D., Vandenbosch, L., & Eggermont, S. (2011, March). Sexual acts and sexual suggestions on music channels: A content analysis. Master seminar on design and implementation of codebooks for qualitative and quantitative content analysis, Brussels.Google Scholar
  78. Ward, L. M. (1995). Talking about sex: Common themes about sexuality in the prime-time television programs children and adolescents view most. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 595–615. doi:10.1007/BF01537058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Ward, L. M. (2003). Understanding the role of entertainment media in the sexual socialization of American youth: a review of empirical research. Developmental Review, 23, 347–388. doi:10.1016/S0273-2297(03)00013-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Ward, L. M., & Friedman, K. (2006). Using TV as a guide: Associations between television viewing and adolescents’ sexual attitudes and behavior. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 161, 133–156. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2006.00125.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Ward, L. M., & Rivadeneyra, R. (1999). Contributions of entertainment television to adolescents’ sexual attitudes and expectations: The role of viewing amount versus viewer involvement. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 237–249. doi:10.1080/00224499909551994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Ward, T., Hudson, S. M., Johnston, L., & Marshall, W. L. (1997). Cognitive distortions in sex offenders: An integrative review. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 479–507. doi:10.1016/S0272-7358(97)81034-3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Weinstock, H., Berman, S., & Cates, W. (2004). Sexually transmitted diseases among American youth: Incidence and prevalence estimates. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 36, 6–10. doi:10.1363/3600604.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zhang, Y., Miller, L. E., & Harrison, K. (2008). The relationship between exposure to sexual music videos and young adults’ sexual attitudes. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 52, 368–386. doi:10.1080/08838150802205462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zurbriggen, E. L., & Morgan, E. M. (2006). Who wants to marry a millionaire? Reality dating television programs, attitudes toward sex, and sexual behaviors. Sex Roles, 54, 1–17. doi:10.1007/s11199-005-8865-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leuven School for Mass Communication Research, Faculty of Social SciencesKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations