Sanctification of sexual relationships in African American university students

Matthew Johnson Heiner, Tennessee State University


The topic of spirituality has a history of being overlooked in terms of psychological research. One reason for this is the difficulty in measuring such a construct. The concept of sanctification, which has been defined as “perceiving an aspect of life as having divine character and significance” (Mahoney et al., 1999; Mahoney, Pargament, Murray-Swank, & Murray-Swank, 2003), is one manner in which the relationship between spirituality and other aspects of life has been viewed. The present study explored university students’ sanctification (identification as sacred or holy) of sexual behaviors, both within marriage and outside of marriage, and how this relates to the relationship between participants’ reported sexual behaviors, and sexual satisfaction. Racial differences were explored due to previous research that indicates the importance of spirituality in the lives of African American individuals (Banks-Wallace & Parks, 2004; Lewis, Hankin, Reynolds, & Ogedegbe, 2007). The sample consisted of 212 students attending a historically black university, of which 183 identified as African American. Differences in responses of African American students and non-African American students were explored and it was found that there were no significant differences between the degree to which African American students and non-African American students sanctified sex inside or outside of marriage. It was found that participants in the sample sanctified sex between a married couple more than for an unmarried couple, regardless of race. Further analysis indicated that sanctification did not predict reported sexual behaviors or sexual partners over the past 30 days; race did predict sexual behaviors but did not predict sexual partners. This result could explain the finding of an insignificant relationship between participants’ reported sexual satisfaction and sanctification. The only variable that was found to contribute significantly to sexual satisfaction was reported sexual behaviors in the past 30 days. Overall, this study failed to support the hypothesis that African American participants sanctified sex any more or less than non-African American participants.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Black studies|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Matthew Johnson Heiner, "Sanctification of sexual relationships in African American university students" (2010). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3413691.