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Study: Religious Affiliation and Residence in
Muslim-Majority Nations Influence Sexual Behavior

WASHINGTON, DC, October 17, 2012 — Hindus and Muslims are less likely than Christians and Jews to have premarital sex, and Muslims are the least likely among people of these religious groups to have extramarital sex, according to a new study that analyzed data on premarital and extramarital sexual behaviors in over 30 developing countries around the world.

Co-authored by Amy Adamczyk, an Associate Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Brittany Hayes, a Ph.D. student in John Jay’s Criminal Justice program, the study, “Religion and Sexual Behaviors: Understanding the Influence of Islamic Cultures and Religious Affiliation for Explaining Sex Outside of Marriage,” appears in the October issue of the American Sociological Review.

According to the researchers, Muslims’ lower likelihood of premarital and extramarital sex is related to their commitment to, and community support for, strict religious tenants that only permit sex within marriage. Adamczyk and Hayes also found that national Islamic cultures influence the sexual behaviors of all residents, even people who do not identify themselves as Muslim. The authors posit that religion tends to have a more powerful effect than restrictions on women’s movement in many Muslim countries. 

“One of the most surprising findings was that religious affiliations have a real influence on people’s sexual behaviors,” said Adamczyk. “Specifically, Muslim and Hindus are significantly less likely to report having had premarital sex than Christians and Jews. One of the novelties of our study is our analysis of behaviors, rather than attitudes. While a lot of research attention has been given to understanding differences between the major world religions in adherents’ attitudes, much less attention has been given to understanding differences based on behaviors.”

The study was inspired by Adamczyk’s earlier work where she observed the differences in HIV/AIDS infection rates between Christian- and Muslim-majority nations in which residents in Muslim-majority nations had lower infection rates than residents of Christian nations. Adamczyk and Hayes speculate that differences in sexual behaviors may help explain why people in Muslim-majority nations tend to have lower prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS than residents of other countries.

Adamczyk received her B.A. from Hunter College, City University of New York, and her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. Her interests focus on religion, deviance and crime, and health. Her research has been supported with grants from the Department of Homeland Security and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Hayes is currently working on a project focusing on how contextual factors influence victim–offender relationships in ideologically and non-ideologically motivated homicides.   

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About the American Sociological Association and the American Sociological Review
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society. The American Sociological Review is the ASA’s flagship journal.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality, and the rule of law. For more information, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu

The research article described above is available by request for members of the media. For a copy of the full study, contact Daniel Fowler, ASA’s Media Relations and Public Affairs Officer, at (202) 527-7885 or pubinfo@asanet.org.

For more information about the study, members of the media can also contact Doreen Viñas-Pineda, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, at (212) 237-8645 or dvinas@jjay.cuny.edu.

 


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