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Keywords:

  • National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health);
  • premarital sex;
  • religion;
  • youth/emergent adulthood

Social scientists know little about the effect of religion and abstinence pledging on premarital sex beyond adolescence. Evidence from a sample of married young adults in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 2,079) reveals that premarital sex is widespread even among religious Americans and abstinence pledgers. Nevertheless, these individuals are much more likely than their counterparts to avoid premarital sex entirely. When they do have premarital sex, pledgers are more likely to restrict the behavior to their future spouse. Though contextual, exposure, and social control effects explain some of the influence of religion and abstinence pledging, religion and abstinence pledging appear to exert robust, direct effects on premarital sexual behavior.