The impact of sexual experience on the development of sexual self-concept and global self-esteem during adolescence and young adulthood : a prospective analysis
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The development of an understanding of one's self as a sexual person is an important developmental task for adolescents and young adults. Yet little is known about how an individual's sexual self-concept (SSC) develops, or how the personal sexual experiences impact the development of SSC and the more global aspects of one's self-worth. Two studies were therefore conducted to examine these issues. The first examined the normative development of SSC from adolescence into young adulthood, and how sexual experiences (such as sexual debut, the number of sexual partners, or involvement in risky and aggressive sexual behaviors) shape the course of development. Three wave data from a longitudinal study conducted over a 11-year period was used for this purpose. Results indicated that most aspects of SSC (e.g., sexual self-esteem, sexual anxiety and sexual openness) became more positive during adolescence and emerging adulthood and then leveled off after age 25 years. In addition, a reciprocal relation was found between sexual experience and SSC over time: positive SSC predicted more sexual experience; accumulating sexual experiences (e.g., increases in sexual frequency and number of sexual partners), in turn, positively predicted subsequent SSC. The increases in risky sexual practices had negative impact on sexual self-esteem but positive impact on other dimensions of SSC. Study 2 replicated these patterns in a 3-month longitudinal study among college students and also examined the influence of personal sexual experience on global self-esteem. Results indicated that personal sexual experiences, especially sexual satisfaction, significantly influenced global self-esteem among individuals who staked their global self-worth on the sexual domain. Together, these results highlight the important role individuals' personal sexual experiences may play in the development of a health SSC and global self-worth.
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