Moral reasoning and unprotected sex among young men

Jeanne Hernandez, Ralph J. Diclemente

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the influence of moral reasoning on young men’s HIV-related sexual risk behaviors, specifically unprotected sexual intercourse. It was hypothesized that those with higher stage moral reasoning will be more likely to practice safe sex. Male college students completed a measure of moral reasoning and a self-report questionnaire assessing sexual behavior. Those scoring high on moral reasoning reported significantly fewer incidents of unprotected sex and more respect for partners who wanted to practice safe sex. They also had fewer sex partners, reported fewer pick-ups, and their sexual motivation on dates was lower (the latter comparisons did not reach levels of significance). That students engage in risky sexual practices less when they use higher levels of moral reasoning is important to the health education discipline’s effort to promote safer sex. It speaks to incorporating training in higher levels of moral reasoning into sex education curricula, for example, by presenting moral sexual dilemmas for classroom discussion. The moral dilemma approach stimulates students to progress more rapidly through their own natural course of moral development, and summarily provides them with the tools to make responsible decisions about sexual behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-351
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Health Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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