Specificity of early movie effects on adolescent sexual behavior and alcohol use

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Nov;96:200-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.07.032. Epub 2013 Aug 13.


Adolescents' movie sex exposure (MSE) and movie alcohol exposure (MAE) have been shown to influence later sexual behavior and drinking, respectively. No study to date, however, has tested whether these effects generalize across behaviors. This study examined the concurrent influences of early (i.e., before age 16) MSE and MAE on subsequent risky sex and alcohol use among a national sample of 1228 U.S. adolescents. Participants reported their health behaviors and movie viewing up to six times between 2003 and 2009 in telephone interviews. The Beach method was used to create a population-based estimate of each participant's MSE and MAE, which were then entered into a structural equation model (SEM) to predict lifetime risky sex and past month alcohol use at ages 18-21. For both men and women, MAE predicted alcohol use, mediated by age of initiation of heavy episodic drinking (HED) and age of sexual debut; MAE also predicted risky sex via age of sexual debut. Among men only, MSE indirectly predicted risky sex and alcohol use. Findings indicated that early exposure to risk content from movies had both specific and general effects on later risk-taking, but gender differences were evident: for men, MSE was a stronger predictor than MAE, but for women, only MAE predicted later risk behavior. These results have implications for future media research, prevention programs for adolescent sex and alcohol use, and movie ratings that can guide parents' decisions as to which movies are appropriate for their children.

Keywords: Adolescents; Alcohol; Movies; Risky sex; Specificity; United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Child
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Sexual Partners
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult