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Two WSU Human Development Undergraduates Present Adolescent Sexuality Research at National Conference

Posted by struscott | February 7, 2009

Washington State University was well represented at the 70th Annual National Council on Family Relations Conference as two WSU seniors presented a poster detailing their research.

Senior Human Development majors Cheri Boyer and Danielle Broberg
Senior Human Development majors Cheri Boyer and Danielle Broberg

Senior Human Development majors Cheri Boyer and Danielle Broberg presented a poster on “Adolescent Identity Formation and Reasons to Have Sex: Links to Sexual Risk Taking.” The two undergraduates were advised by assistant professor of human development Jenifer McGuire, who has extensive research experience in adolescent sexuality.

“Our study was a retrospective analysis of a survey that was completed in 2000 on the adolescent population in Arizona,” Broberg said. “We went back and mined the existing data.” Broberg and Boyer examined the existing data with a new lens, considering the association between identity development and sexual risk taking.

What the two undergraduate researchers found was that intellectual sexual exploration is beneficial. Intellectual exploration means that the young person has talked about and thought through various behavioral options and understands the ramifications of his or her behavior.

“Intellectual exploration does provide protection from sexual risk-taking behavior,” Broberg said. “It is also correlated with more mature and positive responses on why adolescents would have sexual intercourse.”

Broberg and Boyer’s analysis of the Arizona data neither condemns nor condones adolescent sexual activity but rather demonstrates that those young people who have been empowered to explore their options behave more responsibly.

Broberg and Boyer said they had to do considerable background research in order to analyze the extensive data from the Arizona survey and come to new conclusions.

Though the study was extensive it was not required for the human development major to graduate. “Dr. McGuire approached me and suggested I take on research under her and, since I’m interested in graduate studies, it seemed like a logical choice,” Broberg said.

“I’m in the Honors College, so I approached Dr. McGuire to ask if she would be my thesis advisor and that morphed into this project,” Boyer said.

Both Broberg and Boyer agree that the study was a great experience for them. “Going through this process and discovering that it is a lot of work and to see all the skills required was a really neat thing,” Broberg said.

“You don’t anticipate, going into your freshman year, that you’re going to end up working on a research project, but having that challenge presented to you, going through the process, and going above and beyond just your class work has been a really good experience for me,” Boyer said.

–Mitch Sieber, Marketing, News, and Educational Communications intern