College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

W. LaVome Robinson, Ph.D. ABPP

Second Advisor

Gary W. Harper, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Midge Wilson, Ph.D.


Much of the research on sexuality during adolescence has focused on the potential negative sequelae of adolescent sexual behavior such as STI acquisition or teenage pregnancy. Researchers have begun to advocate for examining adolescent sexuality as a normative aspect of adolescent development. One aspect of this examination would be to form a more complete understanding of how adolescents develop their sexual identity – their conceptualization of themselves as a sexual being. Erickson’s (1968) identity development theory asserts that identity is developed internally and shaped by the social environment.

Development of a healthy sexual identity may be particularly difficult for African American adolescent females, as adolescent females are consistently warned of the potentially negative consequences of sexual expression. Despite this, popular culture is saturated with images of sexualized young women who represent the ultimate object of male desire. For adolescent African American females this process may be further complicated by historical stereotypes associating them with sexual exoticism, sexual promiscuity, and disinhibition. Additionally, religion has proven to be influential in shaping norms and attitudes around sex and sexuality in the African American community.

Using a psychological phenomenological approach, the sexual narratives of 20 African American adolescent females were examined for positive and negative conceptualizations of sex, the presence or absence of named sexual desire; and for various gender, cultural or religious influences that emerged which impacted these young women’s understanding of their sexuality.