Changing values on sexual behaviours in South-East Europe 1995–2020

Källarsalen Session 5: The role of educational policy, sex education and contraceptives for gender equality organized by Annika Elwert and Volha Lazuka


Peter Gladoic Håkansson, Dubravka Gladoic Håkansson


The dissolution of the Yugoslavian state and the formation of independent republics in the beginning of the 1990s, lead to a change in both formal institutions (laws, rules etc.) as well as informal institutions (norms, values etc.). As institutions are omitted and bounded by, as well as depending on, the nation state (see e.g., Acemoglu & Robinson, 2012; Olsen 1996), major changes in the nation state influence changes in the institutional framework. The aim of this article is to investigate how changing values on sexual behaviour and changing formal institutions have coincided. For this we use data from World Values Survey (WVS) for Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia 1995 and 2020. The research questions are:

  • In what way have values on sexual behaviour developed differently in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia?

  • How have the change in values coincided with change in legislation in the three countries?

  • How have increasing religiousness and the role of the church coincided with changing values on sexual behaviours?

Using individual WVS-data, we estimate values on homosexuality, abortion, divorce in a logit regression, using religiousness, country, age, education and gender as explanatory variables. We find major differences in the development of the three countries. While Slovenia developed towards a more accepting society with a higher share of respondents finding the measured sexual behaviours justifiable, Croatia and Serbia developed the other way around. The share of respondents finding these sexual behaviours never justifiable have increased considerably in Croatia and Serbia, while they have decreased in Slovenia. The values on sexual behaviours are correlated with religiousness, and we find a positive correlation between “never justifiable” and religiousness. However, even though religiousness has increased in Croatia and Serbia, it cannot fully explain the change. A significant component remains connected to the nation state that drives us to the conclusion that this is specifically connected to change in formal institutions. These changes in formal institutions (i.e., legislation) we qualitatively and descriptively connect the changes in values. Notably, Slovenia has run a different policy, than Croatia and Serbia.


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