In this paper, we examine the relationships among athletic participation and sexual behavior, contraceptive use, and pregnancy in female and male high school students. Analyses of covariance and multiple analyses of covariance were performed on a nationally representative sample of 8,979 high school students (the 1995 Youth Risk Behavior Survey). After controlling for race and ethnicity, age, and mother’s education, girls who participated in sports had lower rates of sexual experience, fewer sex partners, later age of first intercourse, higher rates of contraceptive use, and lower rates of past pregnancy than girls who did not participate. Male high school athletes reported higher rates of sexual experience and more partners than nonathletes, but—like their female counterparts—were also more likely to have used birth control during their most recent intercourse. Cultural resource theory suggests that athletic participation may reduce girls’ adherence to conventional cultural scripts while providing them with additional social and personal resources on which to draw in the sexual bargaining process. Sports provides boys with similar resources while strengthening their commitment to traditional masculine scripts.
K.E. Miller is with the Department of Sociology at The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052. D.F. Sabo is with the Department of Social Sciences at D’Youville College, Buffalo, NY 14201. M.P. Farrell is with the Department of Sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14214-3003. G.M. Barnes is with the New York State Research Institute on Addictions, 1021 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14203-1016. M.J. Melnick is with the Department of Physical Education and Sport at the State University of New York College at Brockport, Brockport, NY 14420.