Date of Award

2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Lynne Cohen

Abstract

The present study examined whether cognitive (beliefs), affective (emotions) and behavioural processes predicted young men's attitudes toward sexual health practices. For pragmatic reasons, most sexual health interventions are based on the provision of factual information, meaning most evaluations of these interventions have focused on the cognitive sources which may lead to behavioural change. However, the importance of emotional and behavioural influences has also been indicated, though rarely considered. The present study hoped to clarify this issue using Zanna and Rempel's (1988) model of attitude formation. The study also provided some methodological extensions to the attitude literature. It examined the use of the free response methodology (Eagly, Mladinic & Otto, 1994) in a new domain, and attempted to consolidate the inclusion of the behavioural component of Zanna and Rempel's model (Esses, Haddock & Zanna, 1993; Pooley, 1996). Sixty participants (N = 60) were asked to rate their attitudes toward six sexual health practices. They then reported and evaluated their own beliefs and emotions about the practices, and indicate the frequency with which they had previously engaged in each practice. Results from standard regressions indicated that emotions significantly predicted attitudes toward having many short-term partners and asymptomatic screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Beliefs and past behaviour predicted attitudes toward carrying condoms and discussing STIs with a partner. Hierarchical regressions indicated that even after beliefs and emotions were taken into account, past behaviour could still significantly account for some of the variance in attitudes toward carrying condoms and discussing STIs with a partner. Several conclusions were drawn from the results. First, the free response method was adequate for the measurement of beliefs and emotions in the domain of sexual health practices. Second, Zanna and Rempel's (1988) proposal that past behaviours can provide unique information leading to an attitude was supported. Finally, this research indicated the importance of emotional and behavioural factors in the formation of attitudes toward sexual health practices, and therefore the need for interventions to include these factors in program development.

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