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Does Sexy Media Promote Teen Sex? A Meta-Analytic and Methodological Review


Parents and policy makers are often concerned that sexy media (media depicting or discussing sexual encounters) may promote sexual behavior in young viewers. There has been some debate among scholars regarding whether such media promote sexual behaviors. It remains unclear to what extent sexy media is a risk factor for increased sexual behavior among youth. The current study employed a meta-analysis of 22 correlational and longitudinal studies of sexy media effects on teen sexual behavior (n = 22,172). Moderator analyses examined methodological and science culture issues such as citation bias. Results indicated the presence only of very weak effects. General media use did not correlate with sexual behaviors (r = 0.005), and sexy media use correlated only weakly with sexual behaviors (r = 0.082) once other factors had been controlled. Higher effects were seen for studies with citation bias, and lower effects when family environment is controlled. The impact of media on teen sexuality was minimal with effect sizes near to zero.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Ferguson.

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Ferguson, C.J., Nielsen, R.K.L. & Markey, P.M. Does Sexy Media Promote Teen Sex? A Meta-Analytic and Methodological Review. Psychiatr Q 88, 349–358 (2017).

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