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Award-Winning Research Looks at Sexual Attitudes of ODU Students

Matt Henson with student Tatyana Kholodkov

Old Dominion University graduate student Tatyana Kholodkov has turned up some interesting information about the sexual attitudes of undergraduates at the university, and her research paper, "Guilt, Shame and Sexual Behavior," got top marks last month at the Virginia Psychological Association (VPA) annual meeting.

Kholodkov is only one year into her clinical psychology master's program at ODU, but already has shown great promise as a researcher, according to her ODU adviser, Matt Henson, assistant professor of psychology.

"She is extremely intelligent, profoundly motivated and has a strong passion for research," Henson said. "I'm confident that others will continue to recognize her excellence as she seeks a career in clinical psychology."

Kholodkov's research paper was judged the best presented by a graduate student at the VPA meeting. Other presenters included doctoral students with much more experience than she has.

She found from her survey of 267 undergraduates that, contrary a couple of her hypotheses, females feel no more guilt after sex - whether with a casual or steady partner - than males.

However, another hypothesis, that sex with casual partners will lead to more guilt, regardless of gender, was supported by her findings.

The research also allowed her to make some informal, sexual-behavior comparisons between ODU and her undergraduate campus at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.

Point Loma Nazarene is a Christian liberal arts university that asks students to pledge not to have premarital sex. But when Kholodkov conducted a survey at that university, about 80 percent of student respondents were having sex.

At ODU, fewer than 10 of the 267 respondents admitted to having had one-night stands within the past 30 days.

"I definitely expected a higher endorsement of casual sex at Old Dominion. On other campuses, it seems, many more students are hooking up for one-night stands," Kholodkov said.

Reasons for this might include the low number - approximately 30 percent - who identified themselves in the anonymous online survey as "single." The young researcher also noted that her random group of respondents turned out to be 85 percent female.

"Tatyana's research examines the relationship between sexual behavior and negative affect," Henson explained. "Specifically, she was interested in how the type of sexual partner - casual or steady - and gender interacted to predict elevated feelings of guilt and shame regarding their sexual behavior."

Henson said Kholodkov's independent research in general "continues to further our understanding of the psychological and behavioral consequences of high-risk health behaviors."

Kholodkov said she is taking a new research direction as she continues work toward her master's degree. Next up: a study of the help-seeking motives of people who engage in self-injury.

This article was posted on: May 4, 2010

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