2014. Vol.5, No.2, 116-118
Published Online February 2014 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2014.52018
Sexual-Moral Attitudes of Chinese College Students:
Two Moral Criteria Systems?
Yongkang Zhou1, Weixi Zeng2, Yalin Hu1
1School of Culture and Social Development Studies, Southwest University, Chongqing, China
2School of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Electronic Science and Technology,
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Received December 23rd, 2013; revised January 25 th, 2014; accepted February 18th, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Yongkang Zhou et al. This is an open access article distribu ted under the Creativ e Commons
Attribution License, which pe rmits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
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The aim of this study is to develop a valid scale to measure the construct of the sexual-moral attitudes of
Chinese college students. Based on open questionnaire investigation, in-depth interviews, exploratory
factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis, the 20-item Sexual-Moral Attitudes Scale (SMAS) was
developed and emerged with good psychometric properties. The multi-hierarchy and multi-dimension
construct was confirmed. It can be concluded that contemporary Chinese college students has two moral
criteria systems to regulate their sexual behaviors. The first one is the Basic Sexual-Moral Principles,
which includes two first-hierarchy dimensions as Sense of Responsibility and Sense of Ethics; the second
one is Strict Sexual-Moral Principles, which includes three first-hierarchy dimensions as Being in Love,
Chastity and Fidelity.
Keywords: Sexual-Moral Attitudes; Two-Hierarchy Construct; Chinese College Students; Validity
Sexual-moral attitudes regulate people’s sexual behaviors
and have relevance to individuals’ love style and mate selection
(Lacey & Reifman, 2004). Sexual-moral attitudes are different
among diverse cultural environments (Villarreal, 1998; Ha r old
& Edward, 2002; Beckwith & Morrow, 2005) and change with
time (Kinsman, 1997; Hamburger & Merle, 1996). Since the
Open Door policies in the 1970s and the economic reforms of
the 1980s, attitudes towards sexuality in China have changed
(Zhang & Beck, 1999), premarital sexual intercourse appears
more and more frequently among young people and people in
China are now more tolerant toward extramarital sexual beha-
viors. In some former studies, the sexual attitudes in the Chi-
nese have been described by scholars as suppressive or non-
suppressive, based on observations made on various aspects of
the Chinese culture (Ng & Lau, 1990). During the age of in-
formation and globalization, sexual information, such as porn
photographs and audio-visual products, is easy to get on mass
media, and some western sexual attitudes are widely known by
Chinese, especially Chinese college students. So the traditional
sexual-moral attitudes of Chinese people would have been
changed by the new shocks and it is necessary to exam the c on-
struct of sexual-moral attitudes of contemporary Chinese peo-
ple, especially Chinese college students, the most sensitive and
fashionable group in China. We premise that traditional and
some modern or western values both have effects on the sexual-
moral attitudes of Chinese college students; and they may select
some beneficial sexual-moral attitudes to decrease the inner
conflicts when they have experienced some controversial sex-
ual behaviors. The aim of this study is to develop valid scale to
measure the complicated constructs of the sexual-moral atti-
tudes of Chinese college students.
Based on open questionnaire investigation, in-depth inter-
views and content analysis, the initial 31 items of Sexual-Moral
Attitudes Inventory of Chinese College Students (SMAI) were
developed. It is similar to The Brief Sexual Attitudes Scale
(Hendricks & Reich, 2006). Participants responded to the
SMAI items using a 5-point, Likert-type sc ale that ranged from
1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree, each item is the
answer to the question: if we want to have sexual intercourse
with others, what principles should we follow?
Using exploratory factor analysis, the first-hierarchy factors
included five dimensions were found; after the first exploratory
factor analysis step, about 11 items were deleted according to
some statistical principles. The formal inventory includes 20
items. Then using exploratory factor analysis to the five first-
hierarchy factors, two higher-hierarchy factors were found.
Using confirmatory factor analysis, the two-hierarchy Sexual-
Moral Attitudes model was tested.
Questionnaires included measures of the sexual-moral atti-
Y. K. ZHOU ET AL.
tudes (with 20 items), and demographic information on partici-
pants’ gender, sexual orientation (heterosexual or homosexual),
age, whether experienced sexual intercourse and when they
experienced the first sexual intercourse and The Brief Sexual
Attitudes Scale (Hendrick, 2006) was employed to test the va-
A total of 1102 unpaid undergraduate students from five
Chinese universities participated in the survey (either as volun-
teer or as part of a course requirement); all responses were
anonymous. This sample was divided into two parts, one for
exploratory factor analysis (361 males and 280 females, had an
age range of 16 - 26 years, M = 20.12, SD = 1.53), and the
other for confirmatory factor analysis (290 males and 171 fe-
males, had an age range of 16 - 27 years, M = 21.38, SD =
1.81). In this sample, 462 (42%) had experienced sexual inter-
course. 71 (6.5%) reported homosexual orientation.
Exploratory Fact or Analysis
Principal components analysis using varimax rotation was
conducted on the Sexual-Moral Attitudes Scale (SMAS). Five
components having eigenvalues greater than 1.0 were extracted
by PCA (explaining 45.82% of variance). The factor loadings
are showed in Table 1. Loadings of less than .40 are suppressed.
The first factor (f1) has 5 items, they represent some basic prin-
ciples that must be complied with when sexuality happens, so
f1 can be generalized as Sense of Responsibility; as the same, f2
(4 items) can be named Being in Love; f3 (4 it ems ) reflects the
principle of Sense of Ethics, f4 (3 items) can be generalized as
Chastity and f5 (4 items) can be named as Fidelity.
In order to find higher hierarchy factors, principal compo-
nents analysis using varimax rotation was conducted on the five
first-hierarchy factors. Two components having eigenvalues
greater than 1.0 were extracted by PCA (explaining 54.27% of
variance). The factor loadings are showed in Table 2. Loadings
of less than .40 are suppressed. The first higher-hierarchy factor
(F1) includes the first-hierarchy factors as follows: Sense of
Responsibility (f1) and Sense of Ethics (f3), they both reflect
some basic principles that must be complied with when sexual-
ity happens, so F1 can be generalized as Basic Sexual-Moral
Principles; The second higher-hierarchy factors (F2) includes
Being in Love (f2), Chastity (f4) and Fidelity (f5), they reflect
some higher moral criteria, so F2 can be generalized as Strict
For the Sexual-Moral Attitudes Scale, the Cronbach’s alpha
Loadings of 20 items of SMAI in five first -hierarchy factors.
f1 f2 f3 f4 f5
Don’t hurt each other physically or mentally.
Should preve nt HIV.
Should protect privac y.
Birth control is part of responsible sexuality.
Should comply with law
Casual sex is not acceptable.
Must happen between two people deeply in love.
It is not acceptable to enjoy sex with a person you don’t love.
The best sex is based on love.
Should obey the ethical
princi ples. .772
Don’t violate the ethical principles.
Should comply with tradi tion
Ethical constrain is necessary to sexuality.
I don’t want to have premarital sex.
Premarital sex is immoral.
The first sexual experience should occur with spouse in the marriage.
Must be committed to a person to have s ex with.
Sexuality must happen with your spouse.
-night stands are absolutely not acceptable. .461
sex with many partners is immoral. .460
7.639 2.600 2.004 1.339 1.081
% of variance
23.873 8.123 6.264 4.183 3.378
Y. K. ZHOU ET AL.
Loadings of five first-hierarchy factors in two second-hierarchy factors.
of responsibility (f1) .819
Sense of ethics
eing in love (f2) .811
ity (f4) .604
% of variance
values were as fol l o ws: Sense of Responsibility = 0.81; Being in
Love = 0.76; Sense of Ethics = 0.73; Chastity = 0.68; Fidelity
= 0.78. Internal consistency for the scale was 0.79. Spearman’s
correlation of test and retest data, indicated high levels of con-
sistency over t ime, with a significant relationship for the overall
scores obtained for two tests (r = .823, p < .01). Ten correla-
tions between the five factors were modest (ranging from 0.23
Strict Sexual-Moral Principles (F2) had strong negative cor-
relation with Permissiveness (r = −.81, p < .05) and Instru-
mentality (r = −.76, p < .05) dimensions, and correlated posi-
tively with Birth Control (r = .61, p < .05) and Communion (r
= .84, p < .05) dimension in The Brief Sexual Attitudes Scale
(Hendrick, 2006). Basic Sexual-Moral Principles (F1), sc ore of
which distributed with obvious negative skewness, had signifi-
cant positive correlation with Birth Control (r = .72, p < .05)
and didn’t have significant correlation with the other three di-
Construct V al i di ty
Confirmatory factor analyses were conducted to test the con-
struct validity. The one-hierarchy model with five factors had a
GFI of .95, AGFI of .92, CFI of .88, NFI of .87, RMSEA
of .094, and χ2/df = 12.85, and the two-hierarchy model with
five first-hierarchy factors and two second-hierarchy factors
had a GFI of .98, AGFI of .95, CFI of .96, NFI of .94, RMSEA
of .061 and χ2/df = 3.05. So the two-hierarchy model had better
psychometric properties than the one-hierarchy model.
The mean score for the 20 items in the SMAS was 66.24 (SD
= 6.51). There was no difference between male and female res-
ponses, but there was difference between college students who
have experienced sexual intercourse and those who have not
experienced sexual intercourse (t = −5.16, p < 0.01). There was
no difference between male and female responses to F1, but
There was difference between male and female responses to F2
(t = −2.31, p < 0.05). College students who have experienced
premarital sexual intercourse and those who have not expe-
rienced premarital sexual intercourse response to F2 differently
(t = −7.42, p < 0.01) but not differently to F1. There was no sig-
nificant difference in every dimension’s mean score of SMAS
between The homosexual sample and the heterosexual sample.
In the present study, the 20-item Sexual-Moral Attitudes
Scale was developed to measure the moral aspects of sexual
attitudes of Chinese college students. Based on EFA and CFA,
a multi-hierarchy and multi-dimension model was confirmed.
Results from reliability and validity analysis indicated that the
scale emerged with good psychometric properties. It can be
concluded that contemporary Chinese college students has two
moral criteria systems to assess their sexual behaviors. The first
one is the Basic Sexual-Moral Principles, which includes two
first-hierarchy factors as Sense of Responsibility and Sense of
Ethics, no matter having experienced premarital sexual inter-
course or not, Chinese college students have strong agreement
on this moral criterion. The second one is Strict Sexual-Moral
Principles, which includes three first-hierarchy factors as Being
in Love, Chastity and Fidelity; they are strict moral criteria and
would be complied with just by those students who haven’t
experienced premarital sexual intercourse. In the case study,
some participants reported their anti-tradition sexual behaviors,
such as one-night stands and have sexual relationships with
several partners; some of them also wanted to protect the Strict
Sexual-Moral Principles, but seriously affected by the easy-
getting sexual information, their sexuality was out of control;
these participants inclined to emphasize the Instrumentality
(Hendrick, 2006) and choose to agree with the Basic Sexual-
Moral Principles as coping pattern to reduce the inner conflict.
This research has some limitations. First, participants were
university students; thus, the generalizability may be limited
and the scale’s utility to other age groups should be in caution.
In addition, the future study should provide more information
about the correlation between sexual-moral at ti tude s an d men tal
health. Now, the two mora l cri teri a sy st ems h a ve been shown in
the Chinese culture.
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