Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 2, July 1, 1999


Revision and Reliability of a Measure of Sexual Attitudes

Roseann Hannon, David Hall, Vianey Gonzalez and Holly Cacciapaglia
University of the Pacific, Stockton, California 95211

Presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Western Region Conference
April 23, 1999, San Francisco, CA

and as a poster at
The Western Psychological Association 1999 Conference
April 29, 1999, Irvine, CA


This study describes the revision, shortening and test/retest validation of the Trueblood Sexual Attitudes Questionnaire (TSAQ), which was created to measure attitudes about one's personal sexual behavior (Self) and attitudes about the sexual behavior of others (Other). It was given to 143 female and 51 male college students (median age = 20) in Northern California. Coefficient alpha for the entire measure was .97, for the Self scale it was .93 and for the Other scale it was .96. Test-retest reliability after 3 weeks was .94 (p<.01). Caucasians were significantly more liberal on both the Self and Other scales than Asians and Hispanics, who did not differ from each other, F (2, 157) = 10.86, p < .001. Gender differences were not significant. This work improves the TSAQ and provides additional reliability data.


Every year about 250,000 college students take a human sexuality course, according to a 1994 estimate (Moglia, 1994). A major assumption made by many who teach theses courses is that they result in significant changes in attitudes about sexuality, e.g., increased knowledge, greater understanding and tolerance of both one's own and others' behavior, etc. Despite the importance of such attitude change, relatively little work has been done on developing broad measures of attitude change with good psychometric properties, especially in recent years. For example, the 1998 Handbook of Sexuality-Related Measures (Davis, Yarber, Bauserman, Schreer, & Davis) contains eight attitude measures, six of which were developed in 1980 or earlier. The two more recent measures include the Sexual Attitude Scale (Hudson & Murphy, 1990) which assesses conservative/liberal attitudes using a 25-item Likert-type scale. Reliability is high (Cronbach's alpha = .94). Test-retest reliability is not available, and there are no subscales. Patton and Mannison (1995) developed the Revised Attitudes Toward Sexuality Inventory. This is a 40-item Likert-type questionnaire with 35 items on diverse issues in sexuality and 5 items on attitudes toward women. Factor analysis showed that the items clustered into three attitude areas: sexual coercion and assault, sexuality issues, and gender roles. Chronbach alpha for the total scale was .85, while the three factors' alphas ranged from .68-.85. Patton and Mannison felt that the questionnaire needed further refinement with continued inclusion of a wide range of content. A 1993 version of this scale showed significant increases in positive attitudes towards sexuality following a college course.

The Trueblood Sexual Attitudes Questionnaire (TSAQ) (Trueblood, Hannon, & Hall, 1998) was developed to reliably measure attitude change regarding the most common topics relating to sexual behavior covered in human sexuality courses. The authors were also interested in comparing attitudes by gender, ethnicity, sexual experience, etc. Based on Story's (1979) approach, the TSAQ was divided into sexual attitudes acceptable for oneself versus acceptable for others. TSAQ items were developed based on an analysis of the content of college sexuality course textbooks, with a final scale containing 90 items divided into five subscales: Autoeroticism, Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, Sexual Variations, and Commercial Sex. Topics less directly related to sexual behavior per se (e.g., abortion, marital relationships) were not included. Internal consistency (reliability) was assessed using coefficient alpha which was .93 for the Self scale and .96 for the Other scale. Subscale coefficients (e.g., Autoeroticism-Self) ranged from .67 to .97, with the lowest coefficients for Heterosexuality and Commercial Sex. Those items which did not correlate well with subscale total scores were difficult to interpret clearly due to poor wording or to complex content. A follow-up study was planned to shorten the scale, replace poor items, and to assess test/retest reliability, resulting in the present study.



Participants were 143 women and 51 men, ages from 17 to 55 (M = 23.1, Md = 20) who were students in a private University or a community college in Northern California, primarily taken from Psychology courses. The ethnic background was 47.1% Caucasian, 19.9% Asian American, 16.8 % Hispanic/Latino, 16.2% Other. Regarding religious services, 25.8 % attended once a week, 13.9% once a month, 16.5% several times a year and 43.8% never/hardly ever. One hundred fifty-six participants (80.4%) said they were sexually active, and 96.4% said they were heterosexual.


Following item revision, the revised questionnaire contained 80 items reflecting Self versus Other across the original five subscales. Each item was rated on a 9-point Likert scale, ranging from 1, I completely disagree to 9, I completely agree. Some questions were reverse-scored. For total and subscale scores, higher numbers indicate a more accepting or liberal attitude toward. For example: "I would watch pornography with my partner to learn new sexual techniques." The Self scale was presented in the first 40 items, and the Other scale in the next 40 items. Questions from the five subscales were randomly ordered within the Self scale. The same 40 questions were reworded to reflect attitudes toward others and then randomly ordered within the Other scale. Table 1 shows sample items. (A copy of the questionnaire is available on request.)

Table 1

Sample questions for Self and Other with Likert scale


I completely                                                                                           I completely
disagree                                                                                                  agree


___ 13. I personally believe it is acceptable for me to think or daydream about sexual activity.
___ 46. It is acceptable for other people to think or daydream about sexual activity.


___ 15. I would use my sexual activity only for reproduction, not for pleasure.
___ 72. It is acceptable for other people to use sexual activity only for reproduction, not pleasure.


___ 30. It is acceptable for me to engage in homosexuality.
___ 62. It is acceptable for other people to engage in homosexual activity.

Sexual Variations

___ 31. I would engage in group sex (3 or more people consenting).
___ 53. It is acceptable for other people to engage in group sex (3 or more people consenting).

Commercial Sex

___ 24. I would appear in sexually explicit entertainment for money.
___ 48. It is acceptable if other people appear in sexually explicit entertainment for money.


Students were recruited to take the test twice, 3 weeks apart. No incentive was provided. In order to insure confidentiality, the students were asked to indicate a 4-digit identifier of their own choosing during the first testing. At the second testing, they were requested to recall this number and indicate it again. We also asked for age and month of birth on both tests so we could use this as a cross-check for correct matching of the two tests. We were able to correlate data between test and retest for 104 of the 194 cases. Some subjects only took the test once, at either the first or second testing period.


Mean scores for the Self and Other scales for the single test and retesting are shown in Table 2. Self versus Other comparisons were significantly different on both testings (p = .000). As expected, the participants were more liberal about other's behavior than their own. There were no significant gender differences in mean ratings.

Table 2
Mean and Standard Deviation for the basic scales
Self Other
Single test N = 194 3.47 (1.33) 5.21 (1.92)
Retest N = 104 3.55 (1.48) 5.24 (2.04)

Coefficient alpha was calculated using scores for the single testing, and was .97 for the total questionnaire (80 questions), .93 for the Self scale, and .96 for the Other scale. Coefficient alpha for each subscale is shown in Table 3, along with the mean rating for each of the 10 subscales. Ratings were acceptable for all subscales except Heterosexuality. Test/retest reliability was .94 (p < .01) for the 104 cases where we could correlate the first and second test.

Looking at the mean ratings in Table 3, ratings for Self were significantly more conservative than for Other in each of the five areas. The strength of association between Self/Other differed across areas, with very low association for Heterosexuality and very high association for the other four areas. The largest mean difference between Self and Other occurred for Homosexuality.

Table 3
Mean (SD) and reliability (coefficient alpha) for the five subscales
Self Other F p
Autoeroticism 4.33 (2.13)
6.13 (2.29)
260.06 .000
Heterosexuality 4.79 (1.52)
4.98 (1.37)
5.96 .015
Homosexuality 1.91 (1.57)
4.93 (3.15)
217.26 .000
Variations 2.90 (1.52)
7.96 (2.22)
306.05 .000
Commercial Sex 3.43 (1.48)
5.07 (1.86)
328.06 .000

Means for the three most prevalent ethnic groups in our sample are shown in Table 4. Significant differences occurred on both the Self and Other scales, with Caucasians having the most liberal scores. Hispanic and Asian groups did not differ significantly from each other.

Table 4
Means for ethnic groups
Caucasian Hispanic Asian F p
Other 5.72 4.87 4.83 4.60 .011
Self 3.88 3.09 2.89 10.86 .000


The revised questionnaire had acceptable internal consistency for the total score, the Self Other score, and 8 of the 10 subscale scores. The Heterosexuality subscale scores continue to be weaker and ideally need further refinement.

Test-retest reliability is excellent.

Looking at mean ratings, it is interesting that gender differences were not significant. The division of the items into Self versus Other and five major areas of content coverage allows for more refined measurement of attitude following a sexuality course. Changes in attitudes toward Self versus Others could be compared. One could anote differential change in the five content areas, as they may vary in amenability to change. The questionnaire could also be used to study subgroups of particular interest, e.g., ethnic, age, Greek versus nonGreek. Information from responses to the questionnaire could be used to guide the development of future courses, depending on course goals.


Davis, C. M., Yarber, W. L., Bauserman, R., Schreer, G., & Davis, S. L. (Eds.). (1998). Handbook of Sexuality-related Measures. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hudson, W. W., & Murphy, G. G. (1998). Sexual Attitude Scale. In C. M. Davis, W. L. Yarber, R. Bauserman, G. Schreer, & S. L. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of Sexuality-related Measures (pp. 83-84). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Moglia, R. (1994). Sexuality education in higher education in the USA: Analysis and implications. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 9, 181-191.

Patton, W., & Mannison, M. (1995). Sexuality attitudes: A review of the literature and refinement of a new measure. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 21, 268-295.

Story, M. D. (1979). A longitudinal study of the effects of a university human sexuality course on attitudes toward human sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 15, 184-204.

Trueblood, K., Hannon, R., & Hall, D. S. (1998, June). Development and validation of a measure of sexual attitudes. Paper presented at the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Western Region Annual Conference, Honolulu, HI.

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