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J Sex Res. 2012;49(4):390-9. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2011.642903. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

A pilot evaluation of older adolescents' sexual reference displays on Facebook.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


Many older adolescents display sexual references on their social networking site profiles; this study investigated whether these references were associated with self-reported sexual intention, sexual experience, or risky sexual behavior. Public Facebook profiles of undergraduate freshmen were identified within 1 large U.S. university Facebook network. Profile owners who displayed sexual references (Displayers) and did not display references (Non-Displayers) were invited to complete surveys. Surveys measured sexual intention, using the Postponing Sexual Intercourse (PSI) scale, and sexual experiences. A higher PSI score was inversely related to intention to initiate sexual intercourse. Of the 118 profiles that met inclusion criteria, 85 profile owners completed surveys. Profile owners were mostly female (56.5%) and Caucasian (67.1%). The mean PSI score for Displayers was 6.5 ± 1.6, and the mean PSI score for Non-Displayers was 10.2 ± 0.6 (p = .02). There were no differences between Displayers and Non-Displayers regarding lifetime prevalence of sexual behavior, number of sexual partners, or frequency of condom use. Display of sexual references on college freshmen's Facebook profiles was positively associated with reporting intention to initiate sexual intercourse. Facebook profiles may present an innovative cultural venue to identify adolescents who are considering sexual activity and may benefit from targeted educational messages.

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