Broken Promises: Virginity Pledges, Pledge Breach, and Sexual and Reproductive Health

Anthony Paik, University of Iowa
Karen Heimer, University of Iowa
Kenneth Sanchagrin, University of Iowa
Marizen Ramirez, University of Iowa

Prior research on the effects of virginity pledging has largely neglected the phenomenon of pledge breaches. Abstinence expectations are broken when respondents have partners who are nonexclusive or when they themselves engage in premarital sex. Drawing on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we examine whether associations between pledging and three health outcomes – intimate partner violence perpetration (IPV) among men and out-of-wedlock pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among women – depend on nonexclusivity by partners and the sexual histories of respondents, respectively. The results indicate that male pledgers are significantly more likely to perpetrate IPV if their partners are nonexclusive. We also found a positive interaction between pledging and sexual history among female respondents, suggesting higher risks of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections for pledgers, compared to nonpledgers with similar sexual histories. The results show that there are unintended negative consequences of abstinence beliefs.

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Presented in Session 41: Dating and Adolescent Sexual Activity