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February 1980

Impact of Mass Media on Adolescent Sexual BehaviorThe Chicken or the Egg?

Am J Dis Child. 1980;134(2):133-134. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1980.02130140007003

Although adolescent sexual behavior has become a focal point for debate among family members, educators, and health providers, the percent of young people who have their first intercourse experience in adolescence has not increased dramatically in the past decade.1 The mass media has reflected the increased awareness of adolescent sexual behavior. One important issue that has arisen is whether certain of the attitudes and behaviors surrounding teenage sexuality are started by the media or if the media merely reflects the beliefs and attitudes already held in a community. By assessing the effect of the media on changing belief systems as well as on education of populations in such sexually related areas as venereal disease control, one could analyze the potential impact of publicity on adolescent sexual behavior.

The general conclusion of investigators in the field of mass communication is that the messages in the media merely reinforce attitudes that