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Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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Journal of Women's Health

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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine trends in the influence of religiosity on sexual activity of Latina adolescents in the United States from 1995 to 2008 and to determine if differences existed between the Mexican American and other Latina groups.

Methods: The sample comprised the subset of unmarried, 15–21-year-old (mean 17 years) Latina female respondents in the 1995 (n=267), 2002 (n=306), and 2006–2008 (n=400) National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) datasets. Associations between religiosity (importance of religion and service attendance) and history of ever having sex, number of sex partners, and age of sexual debut were investigated.

Results: Less than one half of Latinas in 1995 (44%) and in 2006–2008 (44%) reported that religion was very important to them, whereas in 2002, 50% reported it was important. Only in 1995 did Latinas who viewed religion as very important have a significantly lower level of sexual initiation. In 1995 and in 2006–2008, Latinas who held religion as very important had significantly fewer partners. In all three cohorts, the higher religious importance group had higher virgin survival rates. Across cohorts, approximately one third of respondents reported frequent religious attendance. In all cohorts, frequent attenders were less likely to have had sex, had fewer partners, and had older age at sexual debut. The survival rate as virgins for Mexican origin Latinas was higher in 1995 and 2002 compared to non-Mexican Latinas but was almost the same in 2006–2008.

Conclusions: Religiosity had a protective association with sexual activity among Latina adolescents. The association of importance of religion with sexual activity has diminished from 1995 to 2008, however, whereas the importance of service attendance has remained stable. The influence of religion was more apparent among the Latinas of Mexican origin, but this greater influence also diminished by 2006–2008.


Accepted version. Journal of Women's Health, Vol. 20, No. 6 (June 14, 2011): 871-877. DOI. © 2011 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Used with permission.

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