Adolescent Sexual Guilt and the Development of Self-Esteem During the Transition to Adulthood: The Moderating Effect of Race

  • Barrett ScroggsEmail author
  • Ryan Madrigal
  • Nathaniel Faflick
Original Paper


Early adolescent sexual experiences have been found to be associated with lower levels of well-being; however, this relationship has been found to be better explained through the adolescent’s perception of their sexual behavior. The present study explored the implications of adolescent sexual guilt on the development of self-esteem across emerging adulthood. Using secondary data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health the present study found that self-esteem developed in quadratic fashion from adolescence to adulthood. Sexual guilt was associated with lower levels in self-esteem at each of the four time-points from adolescence to adulthood for both people of color and white individuals. The association between sexual guilt and the change in self-esteem was only significant for people of color. The study illustrates the importance of sex-positive conversations around sexual behavior and safety to reduce the development of guilt and the lasting influence guilt has on development. Additionally, this study illustrates unique risks which people of color experience.


Adolescence Adulthood Life-span Race Self-esteem Sexual guilt 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Barrett Scroggs, Ryan Madrigal and Nathaniel Faflick declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study utilizes secondary data. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

This study utilizes secondary data. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study during the original data collection.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesPennsylvania State University, Mont AltoMont AltoUSA
  2. 2.School of Family Studies and Human ServicesKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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