Risky Business: Is There an Association between Casual Sex and Mental Health among Emerging Adults?

a Department of Child Development , California State University , Sacramento.
The Journal of Sex Research (Impact Factor: 2.7). 06/2013; 51(1). DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2013.772088
Source: PubMed


A multiethnic sample of single, heterosexual, emerging-adult college students (N = 3,907) ages 18 to 25, from 30 institutions across the United States, participated in a study about identity, culture, psychological well-being, and risky behaviors. Given ongoing debates about the connection between casual sex and psychological adjustment, in the current study we assessed the cross-sectional association of participation in casual sex with psychological well-being and distress. A greater proportion of men (18.6%) compared to women (7.4%) reported having had casual sex in the month prior to assessment. Structural equation modeling indicated that casual sex was negatively associated with well-being (ß = .20, p < .001) and positively associated with psychological distress (ß = .16, p < .001). Gender did not moderate these associations. For emerging-adult college students, engaging in casual sex may elevate risk for negative psychological outcomes.


Available from: Seth J Schwartz
  • Source
    • "The prevalence of hooking up among college students suggests that they see it as harmless, but hooking up can increase risk for harm in a number of different domains, particularly for women. Hooking up has been repeatedly associated with psychological distress and this association is often more pronounced for women than for men (Bersamin et al., 2014; Fielder & Carey, 2010a; Grello, Welsh, & Harper, 2006; Owen et al., 2010; Owen & Fincham,2011), perhaps because women are less comfortable with hooking up, and tend to feel more regret post-hook up than men (Fisher, Worth, Garcia, & Meredith, 2012; Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003; Reiber & Garcia, 2010). Both men and women generally experience more positive than negative affect immediately following a hook up (Owen & Fincham, 2011; Owen, Fincham, & Moore, 2011), but women have more ambivalent emotional reactions than men and there is some evidence that the positive emotion women feel is related to their hopes that the hook up will turn into a committed relationship (Owen & Fincham , 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The explosive growth in access to the Internet has led to a commensurate increase in the availability, anonymity, and affordability of pornography. An emerging body of research has shown associations between pornography and certain behaviors and attitudes; yet, how pornography actually influences these outcomes has not been documented. In two studies (Study 1 N = 969; Study 2 N = 992) we examined the hypothesis that pornography influences potentially risky sexual behavior (hooking up) among emerging adults via sexual scripts. Our results demonstrate that more frequent viewing of pornography is associated with a higher incidence of hooking up and a higher number of unique hook up partners. We replicated these effects both cross-sectionally and longitudinally while accounting for the stability of hook ups over the course of an academic semester. We also demonstrated that more frequent viewing of pornography is associated with having had more previous sexual partners of all types, more one occasion sexual partners ("one night stands"), and plans to have a higher number of sexual partners in the future. Finally, we provided evidence that more permissive sexual scripts mediated the association between more frequent pornography viewing and hooking up. We discuss these findings with an eye toward mitigating potential personal and public health risks among emerging adults.
    Archives of Sexual Behavior 09/2014; 44(1). DOI:10.1007/s10508-014-0351-x
  • Source
    • "Sexual attitudes and behaviors are critical factors due to their role in a variety of outcomes, including sexually transmitted diseases (Scott-Sheldon, Medina, Warren, Johnson, & Carey, 2011), abuse and assault prevention (Santos-Iglesias, Sierra, Vallejo-Medina, 2013), mental health (Bersamin et al., 2014; Vrangalova, 2014), and relationship outcomes (Greene & Faulkner , 2005; Hendrick, Hendrick, & Reich, 2006; Raiford, Seth, & DiClemente, 2013). Further, women experience more shame and guiltassociatedwith premaritalsexualbehaviorthanmen(Cuffee, Hallfors, & Waller, 2007), which may help explain gender differencesinemotionalresponsestocasualsex(Fielder&Carey,2010; Townsend & Wasserman, 2011) and sexual debut (Sprecher, 2014). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of 530 studies (N = 269,649) showed that young people's sexual attitudes and behavior changed substantially between 1943 and 1999, with the largest shifts occurring among girls and young women. Both young men and women became more sexually active over time, as measured by age at first intercourse (decreasing from 19 to 15 years among young women) and percentage sexually active (increasing from 13% to 47% among young women). Attitudes toward premarital intercourse became more lenient, with approval increasing from 12% to 73% among young women and from 40% to 79% among young men. Feelings of sexual guilt decreased. The correlation between attitudes and behaviors was stronger among young women. These data support theories positing that culture has a larger effect on women's sexuality. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
    Review of General Psychology 08/2005; 9(3):249-261. DOI:10.1037/1089-2680.9.3.249
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: "Hookups" are sexual encounters between partners who are not in a romantic relationship and do not expect commitment. We examined the associations between sexual hookup behavior and depression, sexual victimization (SV), and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among first-year college women. In this longitudinal study, 483 women completed 13 monthly surveys assessing oral and vaginal sex with hookup and romantic partners, depression, SV, and self-reported STIs. Participants also provided biological specimens that were tested for STIs. During the study, 50% of participants reported hookup sex and 62% reported romantic sex. Covariates included previous levels of the outcome, alcohol use, impulsivity, sensation seeking, and romantic sex. Autoregressive cross-lagged models showed that, controlling for covariates, hookup behavior during college was correlated with depression, Bs = .21, ps < .05, and SV, Bs = .19, ps < .05. In addition, precollege hookup behavior predicted SV early in college, B = .62, p < .05. Hookup sex, OR 1.32, p < .05, and romantic sex, OR 1.19, p < .05, were associated with STIs. Overall, sexual hookup behavior among college women was positively correlated with experiencing depression, SV, and STIs, but the nature of these associations remains unclear, and hooking up did not predict future depression.
    The Journal of Sex Research 12/2013; 51(2). DOI:10.1080/00224499.2013.848255
Show more

Questions & Answers about this publication