An abundance of research demonstrates a robust association between father absence-or low-quality paternal involvement-and daughters' accelerated sexual development, promiscuity, and sexual risk taking. Although recent natural experiments provide support for fathers playing a causal role in these outcomes, these effects have not been examined using a randomized experimental design to eliminate genetic and environmental confounds inherent in previous studies. We redressed this empirical gap by experimentally testing the effects of primed paternal disengagement cues on women's sexual decision making. Across 5 experiments, reminders of paternal disengagement increased women's activation of sexual thoughts (Experiment 1), sexual permissiveness (Experiments 2-4), and negativity toward condom use (Experiment 5). Moreover, these effects were specific to women's sexual decision making, as paternal disengagement cues failed to influence women's willingness to take nonsexual risks (Experiment 4) or men's risky sexual attitudes (Experiment 5). These results provide the first true experimental evidence supporting a causal relationship between paternal disengagement and changes in women's psychology that promote risky sexual behavior.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science