College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-23-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christine Reyna, PhD

Second Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD

Third Advisor

Midge Wilson, PhD


The consequences of unsafe heterosexual sexual behaviors including unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections continue to create significant public health problems in the United States. Although research has demonstrated that young adults in general have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections compared to other age groups, young women are especially vulnerable to the ill-effects of unsafe sexual practices, as they must contend with the physicality of an unplanned pregnancy and larger incidences of asymptotic infection transmissions. However, missing from the research and discourse regarding what specific factors may be contributing to high rates of risky behaviors in heterosexual women is an examination of the relationship between a young woman’s group identity and her endorsement of gender-based stereotypes and sexual scripts relevant to that identity. To date, most of the previous research exploring the antecedents or outcomes of risky sexual behaviors has largely focused on examining group based differences (e.g., the differences between men vs. women; young vs. old; or African Americans vs. Whites or other ethnic minority groups). Although between group comparisons provide an important understanding of risky sexual behaviors, they contribute very little to our understanding regarding within group differences or understanding the complex nature of many of these comparison groups. Moving beyond considering group identification as merely a categorical variable, this research sought to explore the role of group identification on one’s sexual self-concept and risky sexual behavior. Guided by established theoretical and empirical perspectives on gender stereotypes, group identity, sexual scripts and stereotype awareness, this dissertation explored how identification with one’s social group (gender), in conjunction with the awareness of the stereotypes ascribed to that group, may lead to negative or positive health outcomes for women. Using established quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and paradigms; women were surveyed regarding their perceptions of condom negotiations, condom self-efficacy, and gender identity. Results indicated that in some cases gender identity was linked to the use of specific condom negotiation strategies for women. At times, one’s affect towards and the importance of one’s gender was uniquely linked to differential condom negotiation strategies. Being explicit or implicitly made aware of gender-based stereotypes inconsistently affected the types of condom negotiation strategies suggested by women. Results are discussed in terms of the importance of exploring how group identity, especially among heterosexual women, can affect risky sexual behaviors. Ultimately, findings from this research may have implications for public policies and programs promoting sexual health. These findings can inform public health strategies to better integrate interventions that are sensitive to identity concerns and empower people to reduce sexual risk behaviors while maintaining healthy group identities. This is especially important for women given that women make up more than half of all new cases of STI infections each year in the United States and are directly impacted by the repercussions of unplanned pregnancies. Moreover, this research can contribute to the crucial need to better understand the role of group identification, beyond group level comparisons, on one’s sexual self-concept.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons