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Young Adults’ Implicit and Explicit Attitudes towards the Sexuality of Older Adults*

  • Ashley E. Thompson (a1), Lucia F. O’Sullivan (a1), E. Sandra Byers (a1) and Krystelle Shaughnessy (a1)

Abstract

Sexual interest and capacity can extend far into later life and result in many positive health outcomes. Yet there is little support for sexual expression in later life, particularly among young adults. This study assessed and compared young adults’ explicit and implicit attitudes towards older adult sexuality. A sample of 120 participants (18–24 years; 58% female) completed a self-report (explicit) measure and a series of Implicit Association Tests capturing attitudes towards sexuality among older adults. Despite reporting positive explicit attitudes, young people revealed an implicit bias against the sexual lives of older adults. In particular, young adults demonstrated implicit biases favouring general, as compared to sexual, activities and young adults as compared to older adults. Moreover, the bias favouring general activities was amplified with regard to older adults as compared to younger adults. Our findings challenge the validity of research relying on self-reports of attitudes about older adult sexuality.

L’intérêt sexuel et la capacité sexuelle peut s’étendre loin dans la vie plus tard, entraînant de nombreux effets positifs sur la santé. Cependant, il y a peu de soutien pour l’expression sexuelle dans la vie plus tard, notamment chez les jeunes adultes. Cette étude a évalué et comparé les attitudes implicites et explicites de jeunes adultes face à la sexualité des adultes âgés. Un échantillon de 120 participants (18-24 ans, dont 58 pourcent femmes) ont rempli un auto-évaluation et une série de tests d’associations implicites, capturant les attitudes envers la sexualité parmi les personnes âgées. Malgré des rapports des attitudes explicites positifs, les jeunes ont révelé un biais implicite contre la vie sexuelle des personnes âgées. En particulier, les jeunes adultes ont montré des partis pris implicites favorisant les activités générales, par rapport aux activités sexuelles, et les jeunes adultes sur les adultes plus âgés. En outre, les biais favorisant les activités générales ont été amplifiées à l'égard de personnes âgées par rapport aux jeunes adultes. Nos résultats mettent en doute la validité de la recherche en s'appuyant sur les déclarations des attitudes sur la sexualité des adultes plus âgés.

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Corresponding author

La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Ashley E. Thompson Department of Psychology P.O. Box 4400 Fredericton, NB E3B 5A3 (AshleyT@unb.ca)

Footnotes

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*

We are grateful for the help of Kashka Iwanowska with data collection. This research was supported in part by a Canada Research Chair held by Lucia F. O’Sullivan.

Footnotes

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Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement
  • ISSN: 0714-9808
  • EISSN: 1710-1107
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-on-aging-la-revue-canadienne-du-vieillissement
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