Theses Doctoral

The Covid-19 Pandemic Era As A Unique Historical Period For College Students Negotiating Romance, Dating And Sexual Relationships: Predictors Of High Self-efficacy For Engaging In Safer Sex Practices

Alvarez, Yolanda

The problem this study addressed involves how college students since the year 2020 in the U.S. have been negotiating romance, dating, and sexual relationships in the unique historical period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, this study addressed the problem of needing to determine how the pandemic may have disrupted college students’ intimate sexual experiences—and impacted their mental health, physical health, and experiences of social support.

The main purpose was to identify significant predictors of the study outcome variable of a higher rating of self-efficacy for engaging in safer sexual behaviors. An additional purpose of the study was to determine if there were significant differences in students’ mean ratings—when comparing mean scores for 5 time periods (i.e. 1-2018-2019/freshman year before the pandemic; 2-2019-2020/second semester of sophomore year during pandemic; 3-2020-2021/junior year during pandemic; 4-2021-2022/senior year during the pandemic; and, 5-currently, especially the past 3 months)—for physical health, mental health, social support, and level of involvement in romantic, intimate, serious dating, or sexual relationships.

Overall, comparisons for time periods found deterioration during the pandemic years with some signs of improvement by the current time period of Spring 2023. Findings showed females had higher self-efficacy to perform safer sexual behaviors, but also that survey respondents who lived independently had higher self-efficacy to perform safer sexual behaviors, those who had a COVID-19 diagnosis in the past two years had higher self-efficacy to perform safer sexual behaviors, and survey respondents whose college did have a sexual assault media campaign had higher self-efficacy to perform safer sexual behaviors.

The results of the backwards stepwise regression found that higher self-efficacy to perform safer sexual behaviors was significantly predicted by higher age, higher income, higher BMI, lower social support, higher current romantic involvement, higher exposure to sexual assault information on campus, lower alcohol/drug use during sex, and higher stage of change for engagement in safer sex—as a global mean score capturing four risk reduction behaviors; and, 56.4% of the variance was explained by the model. Implications and recommendations are discussed with a focus on the need for longitudinal studies with a nationally representative sample.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Wallace, Barbara C.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
November 1, 2023