Premarital Sexual Intercourse and Axiomatic Theory Construction*


  • J. Kenneth Davidson Sr.

    1. J. Kenneth Davidson, Sr., is coordinator of family studies and professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He received his Ph.D. in sociology/marriage and family from the University of Florida. His recent publications include articles in Archives ofsexual Behavior, Famib Practice Research Journal, Journal o f Sex and Marital Therapy, Journal o f Sex Research, and Jounzal of Youth and Adolescence. He is also the coauthor of Marriage and Family with Nelwyn B. Moore and coeditor of Cultural Diversity and Families with Karen G. Arms and Nelwyn B. Moore.
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    The author expresses appreciation for the valuable comments, suggestions, and contributions from Thomas B. Holman, Nelwyn B. Moore, G. L. Sponaugle, Jetse Sprey, and Sandra Friend. Support from the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Graduate Studies, and the Office of University Research is herewith acknowledged.


Axiomatic theory construction was used in this study to analyze the likelihood of participation in premarital sexual intercourse by college women. The sample consisted of 754 never-married female students enrolled in a midwestern, residential university who responded to a sexual attitudes and behavior survey. Forty-eight empirical propositions concerning premarital sexual intercourse were tested, nineteen of which were found to be statistically significant. Three derived propositions were reformulated from these findings, which in turn were utilized to develop two middle-range theories: commitment theory and cultural milieu theory. These theories clearly demonstrate the role of changing personal and societal attitudes toward sexuality and perceived partner commitment in the decision to become sexually active.