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Mixed MessagesNorms and Social Control around Teen Sex and Pregnancy$
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Stefanie Mollborn

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190633271

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190633271.001.0001

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“Say One Thing and Do Another”

“Say One Thing and Do Another”

Teens React to Norms and Social Control

(p.181) 7 “Say One Thing and Do Another”
Mixed Messages

Stefanie Mollborn

Oxford University Press

Some teens react to norm communication and enforcement by internalizing norms and remaining abstinent, but by the end of high school most violate the norms while trying to avoid sanctions. To accomplish this while holding on to their “sexual respectability,” teens need to overcome practical barriers and their resource dependence on norm enforcers, reconcile their violation of dominant norms, and conceal their behavior from norm enforcers. Teens’ strategies are constrained by the power adults, peers, and institutions hold over them. Teens make the ultimate decision about sexual behaviors, but they risk negative sanctions, which are often severe. Teens can try to justify their norm violations as not problematic, but if people don’t accept their arguments, they will face negative sanctions anyway. Such sanctions are often more harmful than teen sex and teen pregnancy themselves and may give adults and institutions the upper hand in the struggle over teenagers’ sexuality.

Keywords:   norm, enforcement, teen sex, pregnancy, resource dependence, sanction, internalize, justify, strategies

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