The Effects of Manipulated and Biographical Parent Disengagement on the Sexually Risky Attitudes and Intentions of College Women

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The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether manipulated and biographical parent disengagement were associated with sexually risky attitudes and intentions. College women (N = 140) completed an online experiment in which they were asked to recall a time when one of their parents (father or mother) was either engaged or disengaged, write about it, and then complete a series of inventories measuring their sexual attitudes, sexual intentions, and biographical information. Experimental data were analyzed using a 2 (Parent Prime: father or mother) × 2 (Engagement Prime: engaged or disengaged) ANCOVA, with the Mini-K (Figueredo et al., Developmental Review 26:243–275, 2006) as the covariate. Experimental results showed a significant main effect for the engagement prime on sexually risky attitudes and intentions, F(1, 98) = 4.34, p =.04, ηpartial2 =.04. Women who recalled a time when a parent was disengaged (M = 24.25, SD = 6.84), endorsed more sexually risky attitudes and intentions than those who recalled a time when a parent was engaged (M = 21.83, SD = 7.31). Consistent with these results, correlational analyses also revealed that childhood and current biographical parent disengagement were significantly associated with sexually risky attitudes and intentions. Results are discussed from an evolutionary perspective using Life History Theory.