Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Edwards, Lisa M.

Second Advisor

Burkard, Alan

Third Advisor

Chavez-Korell, Shannon


This mixed methods study examined the influences of acculturation (e.g., assimilation and enculturation), marianismo, and ethnic identity on the sexual behaviors and attitudes of Latina adolescents. In the quantitative portion of the study, 204 Latina adolescents completed measures regarding acculturation, gender roles, ethnic identity, and sexual behaviors. In the qualitative portion of the study, three focus groups were conducted (with a total of 10 participants) in which Latina youth were asked questions regarding their ethnic group membership and its influence on their attitudes about sex.

The results of the quantitative portion of the study revealed that ethnic affirmation was negatively associated with the variable "ever had sex." Ethnic affirmation was positively associated with contraception use at first sexual intercourse and ethnic identity achievement was positively associated with age of first sexual intercourse. Additionally, there was a significant interaction between ethnic affirmation and assimilation for age at first sexual intercourse, such that participants who reported high levels of assimilation and low levels of ethnic affirmation reported a younger age of first sexual intercourse than those who reported a high level of assimilation and a high level of ethnic affirmation.

The qualitative results revealed that the participants live in a cultural context characterized by ethnic pride and biculturalism. Experiences of discrimination, awareness of negative stereotypes, and bicultural difficulties are also important aspects of the cultural context of the Latina youth. The cultural context of these adolescents helped to shape their sexual attitudes. The core sexual attitude expressed by the majority of the Latina youth was that marriage is a necessary condition for them to engage in sexual activity. The qualitative results also revealed how gender roles, cultural differences, family values, personal knowledge, peer pressure, and stressors/abuse shape the core sexual attitude of the Latina adolescents. Specifically gender roles, cultural differences, family values, and personal knowledge discouraged them from engaging in sexual activity, while peer pressure and stressors/abuse encouraged them to engage in sexual activity. Convergence and divergence between the qualitative and quantitative data are identified and explained. Limitations and implications of the current study and future directions are also discussed.