sexual behavior, attitudes, cohabitation, marriage, religion


In this study, we explore the relationship between attitudes toward both marriage and cohabitation and sexual experience during emerging adulthood. Results from 990 emerging adults indicated only moderate evidence that marital attitudes are related to sexual experience but strong evidence of a relationship between attitudes toward cohabitation and sexual experience. In particular, sexually active emerging adults were more likely to have positive attitudes toward cohabitation. Furthermore, it was found that both religiosity and dating status moderate the relationship between couple formation attitudes and sexual experience. For highly religious emerging adults, sexual activity was associated with higher endorsement of cohabitation; however, this pattern was not present for emerging adults with low religiosity. Dating status was found to have some impact on the relationship between sexual behavior and attitudes toward marriage but did not greatly impact the overall pattern of relationships.

Original Publication Citation

Willoughby, B. J.* & Carroll, J.S. (2010). Sexual Experience and Couple Formation Attitudes Among Emerging Adults. Journal of Adult Development, 17, 1-11.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Adult Development




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor