Propensity Scoring and the Relationship Between Sexual Media and Adolescent Sexual Behavior

Comment on Steinberg and Monahan (2011)

Published In: Developmental Psychology, v. 47, no. 2, Mar. 2011, p. 577-579

Posted on RAND.org on March 01, 2011

by Rebecca L. Collins, Steven C. Martino, Marc N. Elliott

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Longitudinal research has demonstrated a link between exposure to sexual content in media and subsequent changes in adolescent sexual behavior, including initiation of intercourse and various noncoital sexual activities. Based on a reanalysis of one of the data sets involved, Steinberg and Monahan (2011) have challenged these findings. However, propensity score approaches-especially the version of this method used by Steinberg and Monahan, which lacks covariates-do not necessarily result in more accurate estimates of treatment effects than does the regression with covariates approach employed by prior research. There are also a number of problems with the specific set of analyses presented by Steinberg and Monahan and the conclusion they draw from them. In contrast to Steinberg and Monahan's claim, there is substantial evidence of an association between sexual media exposure and adolescent sexual initiation.

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