GENDER, SELF ESTEEM, RELIGIOSITY AND PREMARITAL SEX AMONG YOUNG ADULTS

The increasing rate of spread of HIV, especially among the age range of 14 and 21 is becoming disturbing to the nongovernmental organizations and world governments in general. Therefore, this study was to determine the significant relationship among self esteem and religiosity, on premarital sex. Using convenience sampling, the participants were students from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye Ogun State. There were 247 participants, which were made up of 126 (51.0%) males and 121 (49.9%) females, with a mean age of 26years (SD=6.12). The participants filled out a demographic questionnaire and three surveys: the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, a Religiosity Scale, and the premarital sex scale. No significant interaction was found between religiosity and self-esteem. [F (1, 243) = 2.26, P>.05] The result also revealed the significantly influence of religiosity on premarital sex. [t (245) = -3.32, P<.05]. However, there was a significant interaction effect on religiosity and gender. [F(1,243) = 10.48, <.05]. The study concluded that the type of secondary school attended would also influence ones engagement in premarital sex. [t (245) = 3.06, P<.05]. The result therefore implicate the need for religious heads to encourage their followers to engage in religious activates and also the state and at local level should make policies that would encourage people to engage in their religious believes. The university should have a standard church and mosque on school campus.






Publication: Gender & Behaviour
Author: Opayemi, Remi
Date published: June 1, 2011

Introduction

Early Coital experience or sexual relationship among adolescents or the young adults has been associated with increased health risks, which include sexually transmitted diseases, early pregnancy and child-bearing. Sex is the basis of the relationship; for others, it is not even an issue until marriage vows are proclaimed, therefore, people's views of premarital relations stem from their parents' teachings, from their siblings' influences, from their peer or social groups, from their religious background, or from the era in which they were raised. (Teenage Sex, Friends and Family, 1994). In a related development, Brener, Lowry, Kann, Kolbe, Lehnherr, Janssen, et al. (2002) and SEICUS (1999) both reported that 60.5% of high school seniors report that they have had sex while fewer than 20% remain virgins until marriage. In view of this, the age of the young adults in determining their first sexual experience have been implicated in research, corroborating this, Rostosky , Regnerus , 8c Wright (2003), reported that age is perhaps the most consistent predictor of coital debut, though, systematic variations in timing have been documented across gender, race, and social class. Sexual relationship is believed to be one of the many important areas of the human life that has attracted attention within the human world, because humans rely on sex for reproduction, affection and also pleasure (Cuber, 1972).

Sexual relationship between two unmarried individuals from the religious point of view is referred to as fornication (Hebrews 13:4) or premarital (Stafford, 1999). The church defines premarital sex as a mortal sin. According to the church, God's view of sex is simple: sex is wonderful within marriage, and outside the marriage, it's an offense to the inventor (God). The ideal of sex within a marriage is, as the Bible sees it, total nakedness, total unity, total love, total sexual satisfaction within marriage, and not before (Stafford, 2001). However, the issue of premarital sex has been observed to be more prominent among the young adults with the rising increase in the number of sexually transmitted diseases been treated, abortion rate (Otoide, 2001) and underage pregnancies. Confirming this, Hamilton, Sutton, Ventura, Menacker and Kirmeyer (2009) reported that there were 435,436 births to mothers aged 15-19 years in the United States and a birth rate of 41.9 per 1,000 women in this age group.

In addition, Chandra, Martinez, Mosher, Abma, and Jones (2005) also reported that the majority, nearly two thirds among mothers under age 18 and more than half among mothers aged 1819 years, of teen births are unintended because they occurred sooner than desired or were not wanted at any time. According to Cannon and Long (1971) research studies have considered a number of factors that tend to be associated with the variations in the levels of premarital sexual behaviour among youths, including culture, reference groups, religion and personal factors which may include attractiveness and the relational level of the dating relationships. In support, Hornick (1978) also expressed that certain variables including peer group have been implicated as influencers on adolescents' sexual attitude and behaviour. Reiss (1967) also towed similar line in his study where he listed, religious membership, courtship participation, social class, closeness to one's family, ethnicity, liberality, and residence.

Although, premarital sex is more or less a secret thing within these ages, but it's gradually becoming an acceptable way of life in certain defined communities, such as the secondary schools, universities, and also religious circles. Miller (1997) expressed that a higher percentage of our young adults, especially students in higher institutions undergraduates} and also secondary schools all engage in relationships, which has always ended in sexual intercourse. Several reasons have been raised in the understanding of the causes of the increasing attitude of the young adults towards premarital sex, including, poor parental care (Berner, 2002), peer influence, environmental influence (Seidman, Mosher 8c Aral, 1994) poverty and lack of personal responsibility for one's action (Oppapers, 2009). Increase in the campaign for the use of contraceptives and preventives among the young adults has also raised some ethical, social and moral issues on the acceptance of premarital sex among this group of people in majority of places in the world (Kelly, 1995).

However, contrary to the prevailing circumstances, up to the late nineteen century, the idea of premarital sex are not allowed to breath, because most cultures attached serious punishments to premarital sex and they all view it as a taboo, for which the culprits were sanctioned with serious punishments, ranging from mild to severe ones (J eje, 1975). African beliefs and norms on gender relationships put importance on chastity and abstinence from premarital sex until marriage, according to Jeje (1975), the Yorubas, one of the three major tribes in Nigeria, revealed the importance of these beliefs and norms through the recognition given to virginity before marriage, which brings honour and respect to the family (Jeje, 1975). Though, much attention is always focused on the feminine gender as compared to their masculine contemporaries, meaning that the issue of premarital sex is often gender related, especially in the application of acceptance and punishment rules (Earle 8c Parricone, 1986; Bekker, 1996).

Religion, one of the elements of culture, is also seen as a channel through which both rules of God and the norms of the society are passed across to the people, in addition, skeptics and religious persons were found equally to uphold social norms (Middleton 8c Putney, 1962) because religion is frequently viewed as a potent gatekeeper of sexual attitudes and behaviors (Ogden, 2002). Three major strands of religious beliefs in Africa have been described, namely; indigenous (traditional) religions, Christianity, and Islam (Moller, 2006). However, for many Christians and Muslims the basis of moral values still derives more from the old cosmology than from the new beliefs. Generally, Africans show continuing respect for ancestors, belief in the continuing involvement of ancestors in the life of their successors, belief in the forces of good and evil (Mazrui 1993). These over time have always guided their behaviours.

According to Rostosky, Regnerus, 8c Wright (2003), one important context that influences the timing of this transition is a youth's religious context. In a review of over 250 studies conducted between 1980 and 1999, Kirby (1999) identified religious institutions as one of the 13 clusters of antecedents of sexual risk-taking that ranged from the community-level to individual-level factors. He further expressed that religiosity was associated with delaying the initiation of sexual intercourse and with reporting fewer sex partners among young adults. Supporting this, in Smith's theoretical framework, religion exerted pro-social influences in the lives of youths less as a result of generic social processes, but more as an outcome of religions' particular theological, moral, and spiritual commitments. The level of overall religious practice in a community also influences the sexual behaviour of its youth: The greater the level of religious practice, the lower the level of teen sexual activity (Smith, 2003).

Therefore, as a way of emphasizing the societal rejection of premarital sex within the African setting, religion also preach against it (Omoluabi, 1995). Furthermore, Omoluabi (1995) expressed that, in spite of this rejection by culture and religion, the act of premarital sex still happens. Ellison (1998) explained the role of religion in developing the appropriate mentality and disposition as regarding sex. He also expressed that the moral philosophy of sexual expression that reigned in the past century was owed to religious teachings, though differences in cultural perception and beliefs seems to be a unanimity in the views of all religions on appropriate sexual attitude and behaviours. However, in spite of the spread of these religious injunctions, the permissive norm reigns through the tide of civilization which has washed away the sense of responsibility concerning adherence to the scriptures (Brewster, 1994).

In addition to the role being played by civilization, transition into adulthood also changes the way adolescents view and respond towards premarital sex (Cuber, 1972). This stage of development, according to Santrock (2006) is characterized by many changes in the physiological needs and responses in the body, including increase in sexual urge. Individuals who do not involve themselves are usually labeled as 'not civilized'. However, many adolescents still find reason(s) not to be involved in premarital sex, either by reason of religious beliefs or protection of their self image or worth, usually referred to as self esteem, which has been implicated as the cause of many social problems (Donahue 8c Benson, 1995; Mecca, Smelser, 8c Vasconcellos, 1989; Murk, 1995).

Branden (1969) defined self-esteem as the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness. He expressed it further as a basic human need that makes an essential contribution to the life process. Self esteem is a concept of personality, for it to grow, we need to have self worth, and this self worth will be sought from embracing challenges that result in the showing of success. Wikipedia (2009).

Self-esteem according a person's positive or negative evaluation of him- or herself and recent research of psychological and social development have differently recognized self esteem as a predictor of social problems, such as, substance abuse, unprotected sex, and many more (Donahue 8c Benson, 1995; Mecca, Smelser, 8c Vasconcellos, 1989; Murk, 1995). In addition, in a study by Socha (1978), using 71 participants, the results showed a straightforward association between religiosity, conservatism, and sexual behaviour, though, suggested that the linkage between these factors and selfesteem is more complex than expected.

Past research on the relationship between religiosity and selfesteem has come up with a variety of results. Some research studies, such as that of Bahr and Martin (1983) who tested high-school students, indicate that only a very slight relationship exists between religiosity and self-esteem (Hyde, 1990). Donahue and Benson (1995) reviewed recent religiosity research literature such as The Troubled Journey report, which researched into the correlation between religiosity and self-esteem, using a nationally representative sample of 34,129 participants and The Profiles of Student Life, a survey study to assess such variables as their family support, internal motivation, stress, self-esteem, prosocial behaviour, and risky behaviour among students in public schools in 32 states. The researchers concluded that religiosity had a negative correlation with drug abuse, premarital sex, suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and criminal behaviour but it had only a very small positive correlation (.08) with self-esteem. It seems surprising that a stronger correlation between religiosity and self-esteem was not found since other research has reported conclusions that a negative correlation exists between self-esteem and drug abuse, unprotected sex, depression, suicide, and criminal behaviours (Mruk, 1995; Nunley, 1996; James, 2009), which are the same behaviours that have a negative correlation with religiosity according to Donahue and Benson (1995). It seems logical to conclude that since both religiosity and self-esteem are related to the same behaviours there would be a relationship between religiosity and self-esteem. In another study, using convenience sampling, the participants were recruited from three high schools and one church youth group in Louisiana. There were 94 participants including 32 males and 62 females and ranging in age from 14 to 18. The participants filled out a demographic questionnaire and three surveys: the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, a Religiosity Scale, and the Perceived Social Support Family Scale. No significant correlation was found between religiosity and self-esteem. However, perceived family support and self-esteem were significantly positively correlated, as were perceived family support and religiosity. Male adolescents had higher self-esteem, but lower religiosity, than female adolescents (James, 2009). Another study also reported that adolescents who were more religious were more likely to have higher self-esteem as compared to those who are not religious (Bagley 8c Mallick, 1997). Hyde (1990) cited the results of the researches on the juniors in high school which reported that self-esteem and religiosity are considerably connected for males but not for females and that the more religious students in Cairo universities also had higher selfesteem compared to the less religious students. A meaningful correlation also existed between self-esteem and Jewish identity in a study by Tabachnik.

Therefore, the current study proposed to study the correlation between religiosity and self-esteem. Additionally, studies showed an inverse relation between religiosity and premarital sex among youths, number of sexual partners, and recentness of sexual intercourse, and teenage pregnancy (Whitehead, Wilcox, 8c Rostosky, 2001). In a 2002 review of the academic literature on the effects of religion on risky sexual behaviours, 97 percent of the studies reported significant correlations between increased religious involvement and a lower likelihood of promiscuous sexual behaviours. The authors found that individuals with higher levels of religious commitment and those who regularly attended religious services were generally much less likely to engage in premarital sex or extramarital affairs or to have multiple sexual partners.

According to Jaafar Jas; Wibowo; Afiatin(2006) , a study was carried out on the relationship among religiosity, youth's culture and premarital sex among Malaysian and Indonesia adolescents. Three hundred and eighty-nine (389) adolescents volunteered to respond to a set of questionnaires. The result was consistent with past researches that show a low degree of religiosity leads to a more permissive attitude about sex. Despite the dominations of traditional and religious values in Malaysia and Indonesia, the adolescents are more sexually active and have the higher tendency to engage in sex as compared to the Malaysian adolescents.

Donahue and Benson (1995) reviewed recent religiosity research literature concluded that religiosity had a negative correlation with drug abuse, premarital sex, suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and criminal behaviours however, it shows very small positive correlation (.08) with self-esteem. This finding is in contrast with earlier results because it found a stronger correlation between religiosity and self-esteem unlike other findings which reported conclusions that a negative correlation exists between self-esteem and drug abuse, unprotected sex, depression, suicide, and criminal behaviours (Mruk, 1995; Nunley, 1996). Therefore, it means that the same behaviours that have a negative correlation with religiosity according to Donahue and Benson. It seems logical to conclude that since both religiosity and self-esteem are related to the same behaviours there would be a relationship between religiosity and selfesteem.

The need for serious and focused empirical attention to the role of religiosity in the sexual decision making of adolescents, especially in Africa where religious belief is seen as a major determinant of activities, necessitated this study. Three hypotheses were tested for in this study, including, the following:

1. There would be a significant interaction between Self esteem and religiosity on premarital sex.

2. There would be a significant influence of religiosity on premarital sex

3. There would be a significant interaction effect on religiosity and gender

Methodology

Research Design

The study used a survey method and the ex-post facto research design. The independent variables were self esteem and religiosity, while the dependent variable was premarital sex

Participants

A total of 247 participants, university undergraduates, took part in the study, including 126 males and 121 females, with a mean age of 26years (SD=6.12) and age, ranging from 18years to 30years. The participants were selected from seven faculties in the university, including Christians, Muslims and others who have other beliefs.

Instrument

The battery of scales used was sectioned into four, including a section that measured the demographic details, section B measured self esteem, using the four options Likert format Self-Esteem Scale developed by Rosenberg (1965), a Cronbach's alpha of .92 and a Guttmann split-half reliability coefficient of .78 is reported for the scale in this study. Section C is a Religiosity Scale developed by Gladding (1977). It consists of five questions with a six option Likert format. A Cronbach's alpha of .83 and a Guttmann split-half reliability coefficient of .67 was reported for the study. Section D consisted of 62 items, which measured premarital sex. With a Cronbach's alpha of .98 and a Guttmann split-half reliability coefficient of .97 is reported for the scale.

Procedure

The self-reported questionnaires were administered on the students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye in Ogun State, Nigeria, using the convenience sampling method. The researcher discussed with the participants in each faculty during some of their major classes before administering the questionnaire to those who are willing to respond to them. 250 copies of the questionnaire were distributed and Out of the 270 copies 247 copies were valid for further processing. Self-esteem was operationalized as the score from 10 to 40 on Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale with 40 signifying the highest self-esteem score (University of Maryland, 2000). Religiosity was defined as an individual's level of religious beliefs, religious activity, and religious service attendance. Religiosity was operationalized as the score from 5 to 30 on the Religiosity Scale with 30 signifying the highest level of religiosity.

Statistics

In this study, correlation, ANOVA and t-test for independent statistical tools were employed for the analysis of the stated hypothesis.

Result

Religiosity (r = -.21, p<0.05) has a significant negative relationship with premarital sex. The result also showed that there is a significant positive relationship between gender and self esteem (r = .21, p<0.05).

The result of the second hypothesis which stated that there would be a significant interaction between self-esteem and religiosity on premarital sex is presented in the table 2.

The result on table 2 revealed that self esteem did not show any significant main effect on premarital sex [F (1, 243) = 3.57, P >.05]. However religiosity showed significant main effect on premarital sex [F (1, 243) = 11.53, P<.05]. Furthermore, the result revealed that there was no significant interaction effect between self esteem and religiosity on premarital sex [F (1, 243) = 2.26, P>.05]. Therefore, hypothesis one was not supported by the results of the study.

The second hypothesis stated that there would be a significant influence of religiosity on premarital sex. Using the T-test for independent measures, the result is shown on table 3.

The result on table 3 revealed that there was a significant influence of religiosity on premarital sex [t (245) = 3.32, P <.05]. It was shown on the table that university undergraduates that are high on religiosity (x= 164.88) showed a higher mean score on premarital sex than university undergraduates that are low on religiosity, (x= 144.82).

This states that there would be a significant interaction effect on religiosity and gender. The hypothesis was tested by 2x2 ANOVA. The result is shown on table 4.5below.

The result on table 4 above revealed that there was a main significant interaction effect on religiosity and gender [F(1, 243) = 10.979, <.05] . However, Gender did not show significant main effect on religiosity [F(1, 243) = .281, >0.5]. Furthermore, the result, revealed that there is significant interaction effect on religiosity and gender [F(1, 243) = 10.48, >.05]. Therefore, this hypothesis was supported by the result of the study.

Discussion & Conclusion

From the statistical analysis, result vividly reveals that no significant interaction was found between self esteem and religiosity on premarital sex, thus the first hypothesis was not supported. In Africa, religion is one of the essential parts of ways of life. Explaining this further, an average African is made to believe that all other things around him is not as important as getting to the life after, which they believe exist after death. Hence, they are not ready to share the religious aspect of their life with any other aspect of their life that they think can affect the way they both view themselves or the world around them and also affect their expectation of the life after death. Hence, they hold their religion and all that it represents with regard and respect. This result was unlike those of The Troubled Journey report in which the correlation between religiosity and selfesteem was significant, though very small. One reason for the difference in correlation significance in these two studies was that The Trouble Journey study's sample size was much larger than the one in the present study (Donahue 8c Benson, 1995). A possible explanation for this lack of interaction between religiosity and selfesteem might be that adolescents do not perceive their religion or spiritual beliefs to be an important part of their self-identity. More especially, at this stage when this age category seeks for independence, self recognition, self identity and freedom, from parents and the existing social structure within the society. Consequently, their views on religiosity and self-esteem do not influence each other. Another possibility is that adolescents with equal levels of religiosity may have different particular religious or spiritual beliefs that affect their self-esteem. Therefore, an adolescent's level of religiosity alone is not enough to predict their self-esteem.

Hypothesis Two, which states that there would be a significant influence of religiosity on premarital sex was supported by the study, meaning that the level of one's religiosity can be a yard stick to determining university undergraduates' engagement in premarital sex. This means that religiosity will determine their attitude towards engagement in premarital sex. This finding is in line with the findings of Jaafar Jas; Wibowo; Afiatin (2006) who also reported that in spite of the dominations of traditional and religious values and beliefs in Malaysia and Indonesia as in Nigeria, the adolescents are more sexually active and have the higher tendency to engage in premarital sex. Additionally, studies showed an inverse relation between religiosity and youth having had sex, number of sexual partners, and recentness of sexual intercourse, and teenage pregnancy (e.g., Whitehead, Wilcox, & Rostosky, 2001). Another plausible explanation for this finding can be linked with the recent upsurge in the social lifestyle among university undergraduates which has been traced to peer, mass media influence and the influx of the liberal sentiment approach towards controversial issues. This is believed, together, have influenced the thinking of every average university undergraduate in their search for identity and liberation from the assumed western religion colonialism. This result is supported by the findings of Gerstein (2000) who attributed the upsurge in the sexual activity among this group as a social revolution which has led to a more liberal era in which more young people engage in premarital sex at an earlier age.

Hypothesis Three, which states that there would be a significant interaction effect on religiosity and gender, was also supported by the study. The relationship between religion and gender is well expressed in the African society. This is echoed in the assignment of roles, responsibilities, and opportunities. An average African man believes in the supremacy and dominance of the male gender over the feminine gender and the submissive role of the females to the males as reflected in the cultural values of family headship and inheritance rights and distribution between males and females. This fundamental belief of gender inequality among African is rooted in the various religious teachings and beliefs which highlighted the dominance of males over females and the submission of the females to the males in all areas of life. Researches corroborated that attitudes toward the role and status of women area affected by religiosity and that religiosity is strongly associated with traditional sex role attitudes (Sheeran, Spears, Abraham, 8c Abrams, 1996). This is also reflected in the attitude of the society towards premarital sex among male and female adolescents and the preservation of virginity, which is taken more serious with the female adolescent than the male adolescents.

Generally, female adolescents are usually, more, at the receiving end of stigmatization, punishment, and negative reactions from the people when issues relating to premarital sex are on focus than male adolescents. Hence, what an adolescent believes and does is mostly a reflection of the degree of his/her belief in religion, since, religion, is a core value and characteristic of the African culture. This is supported by the work of Smith (2003), who made assertion that there is a "causal" influence of religion and religiosity in forming cultural practices and motivating action among adolescents independent of other sociological factors such as social class, race, gender, ethnicity, nationalism, solidarity, social control and the like. Although, religious persons were found equally to uphold social norms (Middleton 8c Putney, 1962), however, religion is also believed to exert pro- social influences in the lives of youth more as an outcome of American religions' particular theological, moral, and spiritual commitment but less as a result of generic social processes within the African culture

Recommendations

Based on the findings in this study, it would also be suggested that future research investigate the reasons behind the correlations of these variables and premarital sex.

More research should be carried out to broaden the knowledge based of humans on premarital sex in our society, future study should also be gears towards implicating the influence of other psychological construct (e.g., personal trait, self control and so on) on premarital sex.

The university should give high priority to the issue of premarital sex on campus. Seminars, workshops, talk shows etc should be organized to create awareness on the implication of engaging in premarital sex.

These findings suggest the importance of integrating religiosity into motivational, self-help programs for adolescents.

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Author affiliation:

'Remi Opayemi PhD.

Department of Sociology & Psychology

Lead City University, Ibadan, Nigeria

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