Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

M. Michele Burnette


While the effectiveness at abstinence-only versus comprehensive sexuality education in preventing adolescent risky sexual behavior is widely researched, little is known about whether material learned in secondary school sexuality education classes impacts emerging adult sexual behavior in the college environment. Furthermore, research suggests that self-efficacy – or beliefs in one’s abilities to organize and execute actions – may be more critical than knowledge or skills in terms of how individuals enact behavior. We hypothesized a moderated-mediation effect by which the causal impact of type of sexuality education on four different sexual behaviors during the first year in college is transmitted via relationship self-efficacy. We also hypothesized that the prediction of sexual behavior from type of sexuality education would differ across gender. College freshmen (n = 610, 73% female) from three, geographically diverse universities answered items pertaining to secondary school sexuality education courses, sexual behaviors in college, and romantic relationships. Results found no evidence of moderated-mediation for any of the behaviors examined. However, significant differences emerged among males who received abstinence-only sexuality education, males who received comprehensive sexuality education, females who received abstinence-only sexuality education, and females who received comprehensive sexuality education on several sexual behavior variables. Results imply that gender is an important consideration in understanding how sexuality education may impact sexual behavior. Policy implications and future research directions are discussed.