While pregnancy-related norms and behaviors are not the main focus of this study, the specter of pregnancy was clearly salient for participants and shaped sex and contraception norms, attitudes, and behaviors. Thus, virgins perceived that they were negotiating competing norms from peers encouraging sex and parents and close friends against sex. After receiving training on conducting qualitative interviews, students were asked to recruit a college student acquaintance and interview her or him. In other words, virgins were more successful at remaining virgins than sexually experienced teens were at having sex. There is a great deal of regional variation, as participants attended high school in 15 different states. Third, we identified key characteristics of respondents and compared findings across categories. Although the participants and interviewers were strangers and disclosure of sensitive information may therefore have been dampened, this phase of data collection permitted us to go into greater depth in probing about important themes that arose in the first round of interviews.
Transcripts were then coded using three techniques. In this study we focus primarily on the interactional level, investigating the relative influence of three reference groups: Teens with different levels of sexual experience understood the appropriate timing of sex in different ways based on the content and type of social norms they were subjected to and perceived as important. Yet, we still know little about the ways in which socio-demographic and family factors are translated into micro-level processes, such as decision-making about sex Gillmore et al. There are many aspects of the U. Results Our findings focus on norms about sex that were communicated to college-bound teens by parents, close friends, and other peers. See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. We group respondents based on their report of whether they were sexually active during high school, and this differed by gender with 16 females and 5 males remaining virgins, while 14 females and 12 males gained sexual experience during high school. This sample composition was a little less diverse than the student population from which it was drawn, but it reflects the demographics of the vast majority of students at this university. During recruiting, students were asked whether they were first-generation college students or came from a rural or poor community. We did not set out to compare teens who were virgins throughout high school with those who were sexually active; rather, this distinction emerged inductively as fundamental for understanding norms and communication about teen sex. Although there are important cultural and contextual differences between the U. In the first phase, 43 interviews were conducted by trained undergraduates in two upper-level Sociology classes in — Although the participants and interviewers were strangers and disclosure of sensitive information may therefore have been dampened, this phase of data collection permitted us to go into greater depth in probing about important themes that arose in the first round of interviews. For example, in a study of high school students, Gillmore and colleagues found that sexually experienced teens were more likely to base their intentions to have sex on their own attitudes, while virgins gave greater credence to social norms. We believe that this strategy was justified for our project because participants apparently did reveal more sensitive information to the peer interviewers. This in-depth information is intended to inform future research using larger, more representative samples across contexts. England and colleagues have successfully used peer interviewing techniques for sensitive topics, such as teen sex, that may result in more open disclosure with a familiar peer interviewer than with an older stranger. Half of the selected participants had these background characteristics, which were rare in the first phase of data collection. As in many other areas of sociology, the interactional level has been relatively neglected Emirbayer, The depth of probing varied in the student-conducted interviews from the first phase, but in the second phase the individualized probing was extensive. The others were chosen from the broader pool of recruits. In essence, despite similar contexts and social locations, these college-bound virgins and sexually experienced teens negotiated and drew on different sets of norms from parents, close friends, and other peers in deciding whether or not to have sex during high school. While virgins reported an individualized process of deciding whether they were ready for sex, we find that their behavior fits within a traditional understanding of an age norm because of the emphasis on avoiding negative sanctions. The interviews were semi-structured, combining a list of questions that the team asked of every participant in both phases of data collection, except for a section on available resources that was asked in the first phase and omitted in the second with probe questions tailored to each interviewee. Previous research has found no clear relationship between parental norms and communication about sex and teen sexual behavior Whitaker and Miller First, responses were coded according to the question the participant was answering, including simple distinctions between answers e.
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