Attitudes to sex before marriage

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Australian society is increasingly accepting sex before marriage as the norm. As one indication of this, cohabitation with a partner before marriage has become more common in the past 20 years, from 45% of married couples in 1990 having lived together first, to 71% in 2000 and 79% in 2010. This represents a point of difference between the teaching of many churches and what is acceptable in wider society. What do Australian church attenders, immersed in this broader context, think about sex before marriage?. The views of church attenders regarding premarital sex have remained relatively stable over time. The proportion who think it is always wrong was slightly lower in 2011 (49%) than in 2001 (52%). The proportion of people who don’t know what to think has increased, from 9% in 2001 to 13% in 2011. However in 1991, 75% of Protestant church attenders disagreed with sex outside of marriage, compared with 63% of Protestants in 2001 and 61% in 2011 who think sex before marriage is always wrong. This may indicate that just as cohabitation before marriage increased rapidly in Australia between 1990 and 2000 and less sharply since 2000, views among church attenders regarding pre-marital sex have followed a parallel trajectory.


Authors: Miriam Pepper, Ruth Powell, Nicole Hancock


Hancock, N., Pepper, M., & Powell, R. (2014). Attitudes to sex before marriage, NCLS Research Fact Sheet 14013. Sydney: NCLS Research.