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Content and genre of TV exposure significantly linked with risky sexual and alcohol experiences among emerging adults

A new study examined whether heavy exposure to sexual and alcohol content on fictional and reality TV programs would be associated with emerging adults’ risky sexual and alcohol experiences. Participants (N = 320) were undergraduate students between the ages of 18 to 25 years who were attending a large, public university in the West Coast. Participants completed online surveys, which included a series of questions regarding TV exposure, i.e. the amount of sexual and alcohol content on popular TV programs and frequency of watching TV programs, as well as harmful drinking habits, drinking frequency and amount, alcohol dependency and negative drinking consequences. The authors used Path analysis with sequential multiple regressions for data analysis. Results showed that being less religious and believing friends approved of drinking were significantly associated with more harmful drinking. Furthermore, having a mother with more drinking experience was associated with more intoxicated sex, as was being more sexually experienced in general. In addition, exposure to reality TV programs with strong, concurrent sexual and alcohol themes was significantly associated with harmful drinking (p = .03), while perceiving reality TV as realistic was only marginally associated with harmful drinking (p = .06). The total effect of exposure to reality TV with concurrent sexual and alcohol themes on intoxicated sex was found to be only marginally significant (p = .05). On the other hand, the total effect of perceived realism of reality TV on intoxicated sex was significant (p = .01), and the direct effect remained significant after including the indirect effect through problem drinking.

Take away: Undergraduate students with heavier exposure to reality TV programs that were perceived as containing strong, concurrent sexual and alcohol themes, reported engaging in more harmful drinking habits, which was in turn associated with more frequent sexual behaviors while intoxicated or high.

Kim, J. L., Schooler, D. E., Lazaro, S. K., & Weiss, J. (2018). Brief Report: Watching Reality TV Programs With Concurrent Sexual and Alcohol Themes Is Associated With Risky Drinking and Sexual Experiences. Emerging Adulthood, 2167696818754920.

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