Suzanne Williams

Major and Classification

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Faculty Mentor

  • Shelia Murphy, Ph.D.


  • Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

McNair Project

Television and Its Effects on Contraceptive Use in Young Adults

Before attending college, students spend more time with mass media (television, music, magazines movies) than they have had in school or with their parents. Most of the media that students are exposed to include some sort of sexual content and less than 1% of that content is considered as portraying sexually healthy behavior. Previous studies have linked increased media usage to the earlier initiation of sexual intercourse and the prediction of teen pregnancy. In this study, I apply the framework of the social cognitive theory and the cultivation effect in order to understand why television shows have influenced the behavior of its viewers. The purpose of this study is to determine if the attachment to shows with high sexual content effect contraceptive usage in young adults, specifically college students (18-25). Data was collected through online survey ( at the University of Southern California using a sample of about 60 male and female students. Participants answered questions that asked about the sexual messages portrayed in their favorite shows and their past sexual relationships. Media’s failure to show realistic consequences of unsafe sex is a huge issue because television is ranked second only to school sex education programs on where people learn about sex. When people imitate the sexual behaviors shown on television, they are setting themselves up for consequences such as unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. More studies need to be done to evaluate media’s influence on its viewers so that public health officials can design interventions to combat media’s negative effects.