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Sexual Attitudes among Different Generations

Sex is one of the most sensitive topics in any given society because people may have conflicting views on it. For example, deeply religious people feel that extramarital sex is wrong while most of us feel that it is okay as long as it is consensual. Most parents would also encourage their kids to refrain themselves from any acts that might lead to teen sex; however, some parents might be more open-minded when it comes to sex – necessarily consensual and safe - among teens.

One common trend among older generations is to complain about moral decay among the youth of today saying that it is excessive as compared to past generations. Do you feel that this assessment of young adults today is accurate?Old man and young girl A team of researchers drawn from San Diego's State University, the Florida Atlantic University, and New York's City University decided to answer this question. More specifically, the team compared sexual norms among adults from 1972 to 2012. Here are some of the details of this study published in the Archive of Sexual Behavior.

The lead researchers were Jean Twenge, Ryne Sherman, and Brooke Wells who all have a PhD in psychology. The study involved analyses of the attitudes of 33,380 people drawn from the GSS i.e. the General Social Survey. The GSS contains information collected from different people at different times. More specifically, it is a record of the attitudes, experiences, and concerns of US citizens at different times in history. In this case, the researchers examined the changes in people's attitudes towards sex from 1972 to 2012.

It is important to note that those who undertook the study divided the surveyed people into various categories. The basis of categorization was the year of birth. These categories were the GI generation (born 1901—1924), the Baby Boomers generation (1946—1964), the X generation (born1965—1981), and Millennials (born 1982—1999).

According to the results of the study, in the 1970s only 29% of adults at that time believed premarital sex was okay. This figure increased to 42% in the 1980s and 1990s. It stood at 49% in the 2000s and at 58% in 2010 to 2012. The researchers also found that the acceptability of sex outside marriage rose significantly among the Gl, Baby Boomers, and Millennial generations. However, the acceptability of this practice fell slightly among the X generation. Moreover, Millennials turned out the most accepting of it among all the generations studied in this research.

Another interesting aspect of sexual attitudes and behavior among those surveyed in the study was the number of sexual partners the average adult in each generation had. Baby Boomers (expectedly) and Millennials (surprisingly) had the lowest number of sexual partners.