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The Moderating Role of Sexual Orientation in the Association Between Religiosity and Sexual Behaviors Among College Students


Past research has shown that religiosity can impact sexual behaviors of college-aged youth in both positive and negative directions. As many world religions promote doctrines that include negative views toward sexual minorities, the current study aimed to examine the potentially differential ways religiosity is related to sexual behaviors across various sexual orientations. College/university students across Oregon (N = 1553) completed an online cross-sectional survey in which they provided information about their sexual orientation, levels of religiosity, religious affiliation, and endorsed recent sexual behavior outcomes. Using logistic models in PROCESS, sexual orientation was examined as a moderator of the relations between religiosity (assessed via the Centrality of Religiosity Scale; Huber & Huber) and religious affiliation and the occurrence (yes vs. no) of three sexual behaviors in the past 6 months: birth control use during sex, sexual activity under the influence of substances, and testing positive for an STI. Covariates were age and natal sex. Religiosity was related to reduced birth control use in heterosexual and gay/lesbian individuals. Religiosity was not associated with sexual behaviors in bi/pansexual college students. Findings show that religiosity was a salient construct for understanding sexual behaviors in heterosexual and gay/lesbian college students, but not in bi/pansexual college students. Given that religiosity has differential effects for various sexual behaviors that can heighten risk of negative sexual health outcomes, recommendations are made for increased and tailored sexual health education to religiously identified college students.

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Correspondence to Kalina M. L. Fahey.

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This study was approved by Oregon State University Institutional Review Board, and approval was sought as required by the review boards of other campuses in which the recruitment took place.

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Fahey, K.M.L., Holm, A.K. & Dermody, S.S. The Moderating Role of Sexual Orientation in the Association Between Religiosity and Sexual Behaviors Among College Students. Arch Sex Behav (2023).

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