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    Theory of Planned Behavior: Sexual Risk Analysis for College Students


    Ten leading health indicators were addressed by the U.S. Department of Health in their Healthy People 2010 and 2020, and increased responsible sexual behavior has been one of them. The reason for including this indictor was increasing problem of sexual risk behavior in collage campuses. The article presented by Jessica and Christine (2013) examined that throughout the United States sexual behavior of college students is risky. Introduction with alcohol and drugs results in increasing perilous sexual activities among those students who are engaged in. Sexual risk behavior leads in a number of negative problems and health consequences in college campuses. The report presents the critical analysis of risky sexual behavior of college students in U.S. This report includes the evaluation of the present article about prediction of sexual risk behaviors in college students.

    In order to advancing the field of sexuality theoretical research is important and so for the greater integration of sexual theory and research researchers have called (Weis, 2002). The two major theories which are widely used are Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1985, 1991) and Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen and fishbein, 1980). In order to reduce the risky sexual behavior the interventions based on these two theories have been found to be effective. Jessica and Christine (2013) discussed that Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) focused on increased risky sexual activities, especially when students get into touch with alcohol and drugs. To support TPB model, structural equations modeling was used which evaluated six additional variables to predict the use of condoms, dual use, casual sex, and contraceptive use among the college students. In the analysis, data had collected from 453 undergraduate students which entailed 143 men and 310 women. A relationship with sexual risk taking behaviour was included by each set of used literature along with being a possible contributor to lowered self-regulation. Less condom planning and preparatory behaviours, greater sexual arousal, more negative mood before or during sexual experience, greater perceived partner attractiveness and greater substance use have been found to be related to increased sexual risk behavior (Jaworski and Carey, 2001).

    The TPB framework is useful in understanding the sexual risk behaviors. Figure 1 below explains TPB with additional variables where the curved dotted lines represents an extended model and dashed and straight unbroken arrows presents the sufficiency model.

    Overview Of The Article

    The U. S. Department of Health’s Healthy People 2010 aimed at increased responsible sexual behavior to be the major priority area. Such activities results in the fact that these behaviors are leading into negative effects, such as unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections etc.

    According to the research article, TPB model is open to additional factors when they are reliable and increases the model’s ability in predicting the behavior of a person beyond the original variables (Jessica and Christine, 2013). In various research papers, researchers have made changes according to their content of research work. In this article, authors have made a prediction on sexual risk taking behavior in 8-week period at various colleges by the use of prospective design. Article distinguishes between sexual behaviors with casual partner versus relationship partners, any of them may be related to different level of risk in relation to predict the ability of TPB with sexual risk behavior.

    Critical Review

    The article emphasized the use of TPB model for evaluating the sexual risk behavior among the college students. The data was collected from the students of Midwestern University through filling up a proper questionnaire. This questionnaire was designed on demographic / background sheet with the measure variables of past behavior, attitude, subjective norms, perceived behavioral contract, intentions, Zuckerman-Kuhlman personality questionnaire, sexual excitation scale/sexual inhibition scale, moral norms, anticipated affect and behavioral over quarter. Also, the sheet contained question on casual sex, casual condom sex, casual contraception use, casual dual use, relationship condom use, relationship contraception use (Walsh and Bartikowski, 2013). Due to the use of a convenience sample of undergraduate students from a medium sized university, the transformability and generalizability of this study is limited (Kruse and Fromme, 2005).

    Demographic sheet is brief of 32-time which collects information of respondents like age, race, sexual orientation, religious background, partners’ income, sexual history and sexual habits.

    Table 1: Sample Demographics (N= 453)

    Demographic/Background Variables Number
    Mean age (SD) 19
    Range 18-26
    Sex (%)
    Male 31.1
    Female 68.7
    Year in College  
    First Year 63.8
    Sophomore 21.6
    Junior 8.4
    Senior 5.1
    Other 1.1
    White/Caucasian 87.9
    Hispanic/Latino/Latina 1.8
    Non-White 12.1
    Sexual Orientation  
    Heterosexual 96.7
    Lesbian/Gay/Homosexual 1.3
    Bisexual 2
    Protestant 22.7
    Catholic 46.1
    Other 31.2
    Marital Status  
    Never Married 99.1
    Married 0.7
    Divorced 0.2
    Dating/Relationship Status  
    Do not date 1.5
    Not seeing someone, but looking 41.5
    Dating one or more people 26.5
    6-month or longer monogamous relationship 30.4
    Sexual Experience History  
    Reported vaginal sex 78.6
    Reported oral sex 84.3
    Reported anal sex 16.6
    Parents' Annual Income  
    $30,000 or less 10.7
    $31,000-$ 50,000 16.5
    $51,000-$100,000 41.3
    $101,000 or greater 31.5

    The objective of this research was to examine that whether intention-related characteristics and variables of students' last sexual encounters support in predicting whether intenders subsequently engaged in dual use, contraceptive and condom over a two-month follow-up period. This study needed to investigate variables that may differentiate between (a) those people who intended to engage in safe sex behaviors and did not, and (b) those people who intended to engage in safe sex behaviors and did so. Rather than focusing on whether participants followed through with their intentions the focus of the study was only given on those with intentions of engaging in safe sex behaviour, the specific important variables related to the actual sexual encounter were hypothesized. It has been found that low self-regulatory control is related to greater levels of risk taking including sexual risk behaviour (e.g., Magar, Phillips, & Hosie, 2008; Leith & Baumeister, 1996; Raffaelli & Crockett, 2003 ). A number of situational characteristics are examined by this study that may lead someone to act in a manner inconsistent with their intentions by decreasing one's self-regulation such as not using a condom due to intoxication. Demographic samples were analyzed on the seven TPB sufficiency model. Data was further assessed on goodness-of-fit and chi-square statistic, for each additional variable of TPB model. Goodness-of-fit data include the comparative index, root mean square error approximation and tucker-lewis index.

    It is assumed by the theory of planned behaviour that the main determination in behavioural engagement is the intensions of an individual to engage in behaviour. With the assumption that intentions directly lead to behaviour, many studies have relied on measuring only behavioural intentions. This theory assumption is partially supported by the Meta-analyses of condom use with their finding of correlation of .44 to .45 between intentions to use a condom and actual condom use (Sheeran & Orbell, 1998, Albarracin, Johnson, Fishbein, & Muellerleile, 2001). A substantial relationship with actual behaviour is shown by intentions but in the context of climate interventions it is not so impressive that intentions are only accounting for an average of 20% to 23% of the variance in behaviour, which is the fact (Bauman, Karasz, & Hamilton, 2007). Many studies founded that often substantial number of individuals who do not put there intensions into practises even after planning to engage in behaviour. For example, Gallois et al. (1992) found that 57% of the participants who intended to use a condom failed to do so, even after the correlation of .44 between intentions and subsequent condom use. This indicates that, future research is needed to understand what factor affect the force the relationship of intension and behaviour as intentions are surely a major determinant in whether an individual engages in a particular sexual behavior (Kok, Hospers, Harterink, and de Zwart, 2007).

    Past behavior for each examined risky sex behavior of the participants was rated on the scale of 7 items in the past 6 months and items were also rated on 7-point never to always. Higher score indicates safe sex and lower score indicates greater sex risk behavior.

    No significance was given to factors that can be more influential among male collage students such as substance abuse and perceived attractiveness of one's partner. It should also be noted that in order to categorize participants into intenders and non-intenders groups the continuous measure of intentions was dichotomized and that this practice has statistical limitations (e.g., MacCallum, Zhang, Preacher, & Rucker, 2002). Finally, it should also be noted that, although this was a prospective study, the measurement of intention stability may be affected due to the reported intentions at Time 2 that may have been influenced by participants' actual behaviour over the quarter.

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    Attitude measure scale computes behavior of participants on five points that are – healthy-unhealthy, pleasant-unpleasant, beneficiary-harmful, pleasurable-not pleasurable, bad-good on a point of 1 to 7 scales. High score are indication of safe sex behavior and low score indicates risky sexual behavior of the participants.

    Due to the use of a convenience sample of undergraduate students from a medium sized university, the transformability and generalizability of this study is limited. Selecting the sample from a limited area and giving the results about a large population is fairly homogeneous. Other than this research should also have included aged individuals who are not enrolled in college. This study also relied on the use of a self-report survey, which can be subject inaccurate interpretations of the questions, participation bias and memory distortion. The results may have affected due to using more females compare to male (Abraham, et., al. 1999). In order to explore the sex difference it is must to use an equal ratio of male and female participants. For instance, factor influencing their use may be different across the sexes as given that generally mans have more control over condom use and women over other types of contraceptives.

    No sufficient data is provided by this research for predicting behaviour, especially in the context of clinical interventions. It should have been cautious during the research to use intentions as a proxy for behaviour and understand the implications of doing so. The accuracy of prediction can be improved by simply asking people to rate how certain they are about engaging in an intended behaviour. It is assumed by the Theory of Planned Behaviour and Theory of Reasoned Action that intentions are the only direct pathway to behaviour, but if they are shown to increase the prediction of behaviour beyond the original variables, many researchers have called for the inclusion of additional variables to these models (e.g., Conner & Armitage, 1998).

    Relationship Condom Use Extended Model. In this model, the sensation seeking was deleted so that the model can be related to the individual behavior positively. Social norms were also deleted from the model so that the actual figure of the condom use can be displayed.


    This article described the study that provided further data for predicting behavior. This report includes the complete analysis of the TPB theory. It also consists of the sexual behavior of the college going students. The comparison of the sex according to the age group is also described. The management of the variance according to the various models is described for the analytical study. The psychology of the male and female towards the sex is evaluated and discussed according to the present scenario. The new-comers of college are generally engaged in the sex activity as they are not well known about the pros and cons of this segment. The differentiation of the mentality of the first year student and the college passed out students on the sex education is discussed in this report. The report also carries the information related to the sexual risk behavior in relation to the global world. The result of the report also highlights the importance of the TPB in sexual research. But due to few limitations the use of this theory for predicting the behavior is not surely accurate. Limitations like not using the equal male-female ratio for research and doubtful assumptions decreased the effectiveness of this theory.


    • Abraham, C., et., al. 1999. When good intentions are not enough: Modeling post decisional cognitive correlates of condom use. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 29. pp. 2591-2612.
    • Ajzen, I. 1991. The Theory of Planned Behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 50. pp. 179-211.
    • Albarracin, D., Johnson, B.T., Fishbein, M., and Muellerleile, P.A. 2001. Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior as models of condom use: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin.127. pp. 142-161.
    • Cooper, M. 2002. Alcohol use and risky sexual behavior among college students and youth: Evaluating the evidence. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. (14). pp. 101-117.
    • Grello, C.M., Welsh, D.P., and Harper, M.S. 2006. No strings attached: The nature of casual sex in college students. Journal of Sex Research. 43. pp. 255-267.
    • Jaworski, B.C. and Carey, M.P. 2001. Effects of a brief, theory-based STD-prevention program for female college students. Journal of Adolescent Health. 29. pp. 417-425.
    • Jessica, A. T., and Christine, A. G., 2013. Prediction of Sexual Risk Behaviors in College Students using the Theory of Planned Behavior: A Prospective Analysis., Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 31(1).pp. 1-27.
    • Kok, G., Hospers, H.J., Harterink, P., and de Zwart, O. 2007. Social-cognitive determinants of HIV risk-taking intentions among men who date men through the Internet. AIDS Care, (19). pp. 410-417.

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