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Does Casual Sex Harm College Students’ Well-Being? A Longitudinal Investigation of the Role of Motivation

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Engagement in casual sex (or hooking up) is generally feared to have negative well-being consequences; however, empirical evidence is inconclusive, pointing toward potential moderators. Using self-determination theory (SDT), we hypothesized that well-being following hookups would depend on the type and level of motivation for hooking up. A university-wide sample of 528 undergraduates completed online surveys at the beginning (T1) and end (T3) of one academic year. After controlling for demographics, personality traits (i.e., neuroticism and extraversion), prior casual and romantic sex, and T1 well-being, having genital hookups between T1 and T3 for non-autonomous reasons (i.e., due to self-imposed pressures, external contingencies and controls, or complete lack of intentionality) was linked to lower self-esteem, higher depression and anxiety, and more physical symptoms. Autonomous hookup motivation (i.e., emanating from one's self) was not linked to any outcomes. Compared to peers without hookups, those with high non-autonomy in their hookups typically had inferior well-being; this was not true of those with low non-autonomy hookups. Gender differences, implications for SDT and casual sex research, and implications for educational programs and clinical work are discussed.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Does Casual Sex Harm College Students’ Well-Being? A
Longitudinal Investigation of the Role of Motivation
Zhana Vrangalova
Received: 19 April 2013 / Revised: 19 July 2013 / Accepted: 26 August 2013
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract Engagement in casual sex (or hooking up) is gen-
erally feared to have negative well-being consequences; how-
ever, empirical evidence is inconclusive, pointing toward
potential moderators. Using self-determination theory (SDT),
we hypothesized that well-being following hookups would
depend on the type and level of motivation for hooking up.
A university-wide sample of 528 undergraduates completed
online surveys at the beginning (T1) and end (T3) of one aca-
demic year. After controlling for demographics, personality
traits (i.e., neuroticism and extraversion), prior casual and
romantic sex, and T1 well-being, having genital hookups
between T1 and T3 for non-autonomous reasons (i.e., due to
self-imposed pressures, external contingencies and controls, or
complete lack of intentionality) was linked to lower self-
esteem, higher depression and anxiety, and more physical symp-
toms. Autonomous hookup motivation (i.e., emanating from
one’s self) was not linked to any outcomes. Compared to peers
without hookups, those with high non-autonomy in their hook-
ups typically had inferior well-being; this was not true of those
with low non-autonomy hookups. Gender differences, impli-
cations for SDT and casual sex research, and implications for
educational programs and clinical work are discussed.
Keywords Autonomous motivation Casual sex
Hooking up Psychological well-being
Self-determination theory
Introduction
Casual sex, sexual behavior occurring outside of long-term
romanticrelationships, has gained substantial cultural salience
among youngpeople over the lasttwo decades (Garcia,Reiber,
Massey, & Merriwether, 2012). Although the majority of
youth’s sexual experiences occurs with romantic partners
(Fielder,Carey, & Carey, 2013), up to 80 % of college students
report some casual sex experience (Garcia & Reiber, 2008;
Gute & Eshbaugh, 2008; Paul, McManus,& Hayes, 2000)and
some have argued that hooking up is replacing dating as the
primary context for establishing and maintaining intimate
relationships on campuses (Bogle, 2008). In light of such data,
many have raised concerns that, unlike sex with romantic
partners, sex with casual partners could havedetrimental con-
sequences onyouth’s mental health (Paul, 2006;Townsend&
Wasserman, 2011). Thus far, longitudinal evidence of such
negative outcomes has been mixed (Fielder & Carey, 2010a;
Grello, Welsh, Harper, & Dickson, 2003; Monahan & Lee,
2008; Owen, Fincham, & Moore, 2011), suggesting there
may be important individual, social, or situational factors
moderating that link. Grounded in self-determination theory
(SDT) (Deci & Ryan, 2000), the current study explored one
such potential factor—one’s motivation for hooking up.
Casual Sex and Well-Being
Partnered sexual activity has many health benefits, including
increased cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, and reproduc-
tive functioning, longevity, and life satisfaction, and lower
depression and anxiety (reviewed in Levin, 2007; Whipple,
Knowles, & Davis, 2003). These benefits, however, are tradi-
tionally ascribed exclusively to romantic sex; casual sex is
instead portrayed as leading to a host of negative physical and
psychological outcomes (Paul, Wenzel, & Harvey, 2009;
Z. Vrangalova (&)
Department of Human Development, Cornell University, B40
Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
e-mail: sv99@cornell.edu
123
Arch Sex Behav
DOI 10.1007/s10508-013-0255-1
Townsend & Wasserman, 2011), health professionals (McIlha-
ney & Bush, 2008), and the media (Stepp, 2007) alike. The
mechanisms by which casual sex might affect health have not
been clearly formulated, but there are several potential expla-
nations. For example, casual sex is often socially stigmatized
(reviewed in Crawford & Popp, 2003; formorerecentevidence,
see Allison & Risman, 2013) and, compared to romantic sex,
more likely to be enjoyed less, accompanied byheavy alcohol/
drug use, and followed by regret or negative sexual health
outcomes (Armstrong, England, & Fogarty, 2012;Bailey, Kirk,
Zhu, Dunne, & Martin, 2000; Campbell, 2008; Coleman, Rue,
Spence, & Coyle, 2008;Cooper,2002; Eshbaugh & Gute,
2008; Fielder & Carey, 2010b). Casual sex, by definition, lacks
commitment and thus fails to satisfy the innate human need for
deep and lasting interpersonal connection (Baumeister &
Leary, 1995). At the same time, even brief sexual contact cre-
ates neurochemical (Young & Wang, 2004) and experiential
(Haselton & Buss, 2001) emotional bonds; the frequent disso-
lutionof these bonds following casual sex (Manning,Giordano,
& Longmore, 2006;Pauletal.,2000) may result in a sense of
hurt and rejection (de Graaf & Sandfort, 2004).
Social commentators and scholars have shown particular
concern for the well-being of women following casual sex.
Sexual strategies theorists have argued that short-term mating
(i.e., casual sex) is comparatively less evolutionarily advanta-
geous andcostlier for women (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Schmitt,
Shackelford, & Buss, 2001) and women’s lower desire for
casual sex is one of the largest gender differences in sexuality
(Oliver & Hyde,1993; Petersen & Hyde,2010). Some scholars
have even suggested that short-term mating is never advanta-
geous for womenand thus they never truly desireit, even when
they might think they do (Paul, 2006; Townsend & Wasser-
man, 2011).Furthermore, the socialcosts that women incur for
engaging in casual sex and other forms of unrestricted sexu-
ality are higher than those of men, a phenomenon known as the
‘sexual double standard’’ (reviewed in Baumeister & Twenge,
2002; Crawford & Popp, 2003; for more recent evidence, see
Kreager & Staff, 2009;Marks,2008; Vrangalova, Bukberg, &
Gerulf, 2013). Women are also likely disproportionally more
affected by negative reproductive outcomes (e.g., unwanted
pregnancy) and may be more susceptible to forming attach-
ment bonds following casual sex (de Graaf & Sandfort, 2004;
Townsend & Wasserman, 2011), perhaps due to differential
effects of oxytocin (Young & Wang, 2004).
Despite the seemingly harm-producing characteristics of
casual sex, in both sexes positive reactions following hookups
are stronger and more common than negative reactions,
including sexual satisfaction, confidence and self-esteem, self-
knowledge, and better social and academic engagement
(Campbell, 2008; Fielder & Carey, 2010b; Owen & Fincham,
2011; Owen, Quirk, & Fincham, 2013). Furthermore, a decade
of research into mental health consequences of casual sex has
produced inconclusive results. Although some cross-sectional
studies have found links between casual sex and decreased
well-being, particularly among women (Bersamin et al., 2013;
Grello, Welsh, & Harper, 2006; Mendle, Ferrero, Moore, &
Harden, 2013;Pauletal.,2000), the most frequent finding for
both sexes is one of no significant relationship (Bancroft,
Janssen, Carnes, Goodrich, & Strong, 2004;Gentzler&Kerns,
2004; Owen, Rhoades, Stanley, & Fincham, 2010; Sakaguchi,
Sakai, Ueda, & Hasegawa, 2007;Schmitt,2005;Schmitt,
Shackelford, Duntley, Tooke, & Buss, 2001). Similarly, lon-
gitudinal studies typically find no significant effects of casual
sex on depression, loneliness, body image, or self-esteem after
controlling for pre-existing well-being differences in adoles-
cents (Grello, Welsh, Harper, & Dickson, 2003;Meier,2007;
Monahan & Lee, 2008; Shulman, Walsh, Weisman, & Schelyer,
2009) or college students and young adults (Eisenberg, Ackard,
& Neumark-Sztainer, 2009; Fielder & Carey, 2010a;Owen
et al., 2011).
Such non-significant or contradictory results often point to
the presence ofmoderators(Baron & Kenny,1986)—it is likely
that not all casual sex encounters have the same potential to
harm or benefit well-being and not all those engaging in them
are equally susceptible to that potential. Yet, with the exception
of biological sex, inquiry into potential individual, social, and
situational moderators of the link between casual sex and well-
being has been limited. Some previously examined factors
include level of physical intimacy (intercourse vs. no inter-
course)in a hookup (Fielder & Carey, 2010a;Pauletal.,2000),
casual sex onset (early, on-time, and late) relative to demo-
graphically similar others (Meier, 2007), and initial levels of
well-being (Owen et al., 2011). Cross-sectional studies have
also found that, among those with at least one hookup, lower
psychological well-being was linked to negative or mixed
reactions to or regret after their hookups (Grello et al., 2006;
Owen & Fincham, 2011; Owen et al., 2010). However, these
studies did not compare the well-being of those with different
reactions following their hookups to the well-being of those
without hookups. It is, therefore, not clear whether ‘‘good’
hookups increase and ‘bad’’ ones decrease well-being relative
to no hookups or all hookups decrease well-being compared to
no hookups, onlysome doso less than others. Furthermore, no
study to date has examined an individual-level factor that is both
specific to and precedes, rather than follows, the hookup expe-
rience.
Identifying moderating factors is an important next step
toward a conceptual understanding of the boundary conditions
under which casual sex may lead to poor mental health out-
comes and the psychological processes that may account for
this effect. Beyond its theoretical significance, such nuanced
knowledge could have important practical implications for sex
education, public policy, and clinical work. Identifying indi-
vidual-level factors that are specific to andprecede the hookup
experience may be particularly relevant in this regard, as such
factors may be under conscious control of the individual and
Arch Sex Behav
123
thus manipulated toward a healthier outcome. Guided by SDT,
an established macro-theory of human motivation and person-
ality (Deci & Ryan, 1985,2000), the present study examined
motivation for casual sex as one such potential factor.
Self-Determination Theory and Well-Being
Self-determination theory (SDT) proposes that behaviors vary
with respect to how self-determined (i.e., intentional) they are
and that different levels of self-determination lead to different
psychological outcomes (Deci & Ryan, 1985,2000). Accord-
ing to SDT, three broad types of motivation represent this
continuum of self-determination. Autonomous motivation is
experienced as emanatingfrom one’s self and reflecting one’s
values and interests or, in attributional terms, has an internal
perceived locus of causality (Ryan & Connell, 1989). Exam-
ples of autonomous motives include doing something because
it is pleasurable or because one believes it is an important
experience to have. Controlled motivation is experienced as
emanating either from self-imposed pressures (e.g., managing
feelings of shame or pride) or from external contingencies and
controls (e.g., receiving rewards or avoiding punishments); in
attributional terms, controlled behaviors have an externally
perceived locus of causality. In contrast to autonomous and con-
trolled motives, both of which represent intentional behaviors,
SDT also theorizes a state of amotivation,oracompletelackof
intentionality for a specific behavior (e.g., being forced into a
behavior one did not wish to engage in).
Extensive cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental
research has demonstrated that engaging in behaviors for
autonomous reasons leads to greater psychological health and
more sustained and effective performance while the opposite is
true of controlled and amotivated engagement. The benefits of
self-determination extend across a variety of domains of human
activity, including close relationships, education, work, health
behaviors, and therapy (for reviews, see Gagne
´, & Deci, 2005;
Guay, Ratelle, & Chanal, 2008; La Guardia & Patrick, 2008;
Ryan & Deci, 2008; Teixeira, Carrac¸a, Markland, Silva, &
Ryan, 2012). Well-being benefits were also found in the only
two studies that have applied SDT to the area of sexual moti-
vation: Higher self-determination in students’ partnered sexual
experiences was positively associated with better sexual well-
being (higher sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and orgasm fre-
quency, and fewer feelings of sexual guilt and regret), general
well-being (higher self-esteem, vitality, life satisfaction, and
fewer depression and physical health symptoms); and rela-
tionship functioning(Brunell & Webster, 2013;Jenkins,2004).
However, these studies either did not distinguish between
relational contexts ofparticipants’ sexual experiences(Jenkins,
2004) or focused exclusively on sex in dating relationships
(Brunell & Webster, 2013). To our knowledge, no study to date
has examined self-determination specifically in the context of
casual sex.
Self-Determination in Casual Sex
Although casual sex motivation has not been studied from an
SDT perspective, research on motives for casual sex reveals the
full spectrum of self-determination postulated by SDT. Some of
the most frequently cited reasons for casual sex by both sexes
can be considered autonomous, including sexual desire, plea-
sure, physical attraction, experimenting and exploring, and
novelty and excitement (Fielder & Carey, 2010b, Garcia &
Reiber, 2008; Greiling & Buss, 2000; Kenney, Thadani, Gha-
idarov, & LaBrie, 2013;Regan&Dreyer,1999). Controlled
motives, such as low self-esteem, need for self-affirmation, peer
pressure, social status, or material rewards are cited regularly by
a significant minority of participants (Fielder & Carey, 2010b;
Garcia & Reiber, 2008; Greiling & Buss, 2000;Kenneyetal.,
2013;Regan&Dreyer,1999). Unintentional engagement or
amotivation such as being coerced ortricked into it is relatively
rare but experienced by a non-trivial number of individuals,
particularly women (Lewis, Granato, Blayney, Lostutter, &
Kilmer, 2012; Regan & Dreyer, 1999). Unintentional or
otherwise non-autonomous engagement due to intoxication
with alcohol or drugs, on the other hand, is one of the most fre-
quently cited reasons for engaging in casual sex by both men
and women (Fielder & Carey, 2010b; Garcia & Reiber, 2008;
Regan & Dreyer, 1999) and this factor is sometimes a stronger
predictor of casual sex behaviors than youth’s own intentions
(Apostolopoulos, So
¨nmez, & Yu, 2002).
Up to half of all participants in research oncasual sex moti-
vation note intimacy and relationship motives (e.g., increas-
ing probability of long-term relationship and commitment) as
reasons for engaging in casual sex and these motives may be
more prevalent among women than men (Garcia & Reiber,
2008;Regan&Dreyer,1999). Although such motives can be
consideredautonomous in thecontext of romanticsex (Brunell
&Webster,2013;Jenkins, 2004), thisis likely not the case with
most instances of casual sex. Casualsex is by definition devoid
of deep emotional involvement and commitment and casual
sex encounters rarely progress to romantic relationships (Man-
ning et al., 2006;Pauletal.,2000). Engaging in this behavior
for relationship motives would often create false hopes and
unrealistic expectations leaving the person vulnerable to dis-
appointment and emotional hurt. Thus, we expected relation-
ship motivation to be predominantly non-autonomous in the
context of casual sex.
Given this motivational milieu of casual sex engagement,
self-determination processes can be expected to operate simi-
larly with casual sex behaviors as with other behaviors in the
way they affect well-being—increasing well-being with
increasing self-determination among those who engage in this
behavior. Moreover, self-determination in hookups may be
relevant to well-being comparisons between individuals with
andwithouthookups.If hookingup isagenerallystressfulevent
that compromises well-being (i.e., significant main effect), self-
Arch Sex Behav
123
determination in hookups may buffer against this negative
effect, bringing the well-being of those with highly determined
hookups to a similar level as those without any hookups. On the
other hand, if the effects of hookups depend on the specific
qualities of the hookup or the individual (i.e., no significant
main effect), those with highly self-determined hookups may
report higher well-being than those without any hookups. Such
individuals may be uniquely positioned to capitalize on the
positive qualities of their hookups unlike some in the no-
hookup group who may have genuinely desired a hookup yet
failedtoengageinone.
Current Study
The current study employed a longitudinal design to examine
the impact of hooking up and self-determination in hookups on
four aspects of well-being (self-esteem, depression, anxiety,
and physical health symptoms) in a large, university-wide
sampleof undergraduate students followedover a period ofone
academic year (9 months). Based on mixed prior evidence, we
expected the main effect of hooking upon well-being over the
year to be largely non-significant, after controlling for prior
levels of well-being (H1). Our two main hypotheses were based
on SDT. Our second hypothesis was that, among those who
engaged in at least one hook up over the course of the ye ar, self-
determination in hookups would be associated with higher
well-being after controlling for prior levels of well-being (H2);
specifically, that autonomous motivation would be linked to
higher well-being (H2a) and non-autonomous (controlled
motivation and amotivation) motivation would be linked to
lower well-being (H2b). Our third hypothesis was that high self-
determination for hooking up would be consequential in com-
parisons with those who do not engage in hookups over the
course of the year (H3). Specifically, we hypothesized that
individuals with high hookup self-determination (high auton-
omy and/or low nonautonomy) would not differ from or may
surpass in well-being those witho ut hookups (H3a). Those with
low hookup self-determination (low autonomy and/or high
nonautonomy), on the other hand, would exhibit lower well-
being than their hookup-inexperienced peers (H3b).
Given prior theory and research on sex differences in moti-
vations for casual sex, we expected women to have lower
absolute levels of autonomous (H4a) and higher levels of non-
autonomous hookup motivation compared to men (H4b). How-
ever, given mixed evidence of sex differences in well-being
outcomes of casual sex, and general lack of evidence for sex
differences in SDT processes, we made no predictions rega rding
sex differences in the first three hypotheses. In order to explore
this possibility, however, we tested for moderation by sex in all
analyses.
In addition to basic demographics and initial levels of well-
being, the current study controlled for several covariates that
mayconfoundthelinkbetweencasualsexandwell-being.We
controlled for hooking up experience prior to the study, as some
evidence indicates that people become more skilled at dealing
with the emotional and social challenges that may arise from
casual sex (Gilmartin, 2006; Townsend, 1995). We also con-
trolled for romantic sex engagement, as any links between
casual sex and well-being may, in fact, be due to having sex in
generalrather than casual sex in particular (Grello et al., 2003;
Monahan & Lee, 2008). Finally, we controlled for two per-
sonality characteristics—extraversion and neuroticism—that
previous studies of casual sex and well-being have not con-
sidered. Higher neuroticism and lower extraversion are known
to correlate with poorer well-being (Costa & McCrae, 1980),
lower self-determination (Deci & Ryan, 1985), and lower
engagement in casual sex (Gute & Eshbaugh, 2008;Olmstead,
Pasley, & Fincham, 2013; Schmitt, 2005).Acc ounting for these
traits is thus critical for exc luding any links between casual sex,
motivation, and well-being as spurious relationships.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to apply SDT to the
casual sex context and the first to examine motivation for casual
sex as a potential determinant of well-being. Although typol-
ogies of and approaches to motivation and sexual motivation
other than the one provided by SDT have been developed (e.g.,
Cooper, Shapiro, & Powers, 1998; Hill & Preston, 1996;Me-
ston & Buss, 2007), none has been used to determine its links to
general well-being in the context of casual sex. This is also one
of the first studies to examine any moderators of the relationship
between casual sex and well-being, particularly in a longitudi-
nal design. In this way, the study contributes to shifting research
and applied work towards a more nuanced understanding of
casual sex and itshealth consequences. To ourknowledge,this
is also the first attempt to apply SDT to a behavior that many
deem socially unacceptable (Allison & Risman, 2013;Marks&
Fraley, 2005) and harmful (Paul, 2006; Stepp, 2007). This pro-
vides an opportunity to evaluate the boundaries of SDT, which
is typically applied to pursuits considered useful and healthy
(e.g., academic, health, work, prosocial, or romantic behav-
iors). If self-determined motivation has the power to foster well-
being or buffer against its deterioration in the face of social
disapproval or other harm-potential, this would be evidence for
a broader application of SDT than the current literature allows
for.
Method
Participants and Procedure
Using the Cornell University registrar, an email was sent to all
registered freshmen and juniors (approximately 6,500 students)
at the beginning of the 2009 Fall semester (September 2009),
inviting them to participate in a longitudinal study about sex-
uality on campus that would require completing two similar 35-
min long, on-line questionnaires at the beginning (T1) and the
Arch Sex Behav
123
end (T2) of the academic semester. A total of 872 students
(59 % female) completed T1 (13.4 % response rate), and 669
students (63 % female) completed T2 (77 % retention rate). At
the end of the academic year in May 2010, all initial participants
were contacted again for a Time 3 (T3) follow-up; 560 students
(64 % female) completed T3 (64 % retention rate). As an incen-
tive for participation in T1 and T2, students were offered either
two research credits (if eligible) or a chance to win one of 25 $30
lottery prizes; all participants in T3 received compensation of
$5. Only T1 and T3 data were used in the present study.
After excluding students with incomplete responses and
those over 24 years old (as atypical college students), the final
T3sampleconsistedof 528students.Demographicinformation
is shown in Table 1. Thesampledistributionacrosscollegesand
racial/ethnic background closely mirrored Cornell University’s
enrollment rates. Compared to those who completed T3, those
who dropped out were more likely to be male, v
2
(1) =17.63,
p\.001, and non-White, v
2
(1) =20.25, p\.001. The groups
did not differ significantly in terms of school year, SES, self-
esteem, depression, anxiety, somatic symptoms, or romantic
and casual partners, all ps[.10.
Measures
Sex Partners
At T1, participants provided their total lifetime number of three
types of sex partners: romantic partners (i.e., partners they
considered boyfriend/girlfriend);longer casual partners suchas
friends-with-benefits or fuck-buddies (i.e., partners they inter-
acted with sexually more than once, but were never in a
romantic relationship with); and one-time partners (i.e., part-
ners they interacted sexually with only once). For each partner
type, they specified the n umber of different partners with whom
they had engaged in any kind of genital stimulation (i.e., genital
touching, oral, vaginal, or anal sex). At T3, participants pro-
vided the same information about all sex partners they had since
T1. For this study, one-time and longer casual partners were
combined into one variable—hookup partners. Based on this
information, we constructed several relevant variables. One’s
total lifetime number of genital hookup partners at T1 (log-
transformed to reduce non-normality) and whether a participant
had any romantic genital sex by T3 served as controlvariables.
Whether a participant had a genital hookup between T1 and T3
was the main behavior of interest. Both romantic sex by T3 and
hookups between T1 and T3 were dichotomized due to low
variability in the number of partners (in both cases, 82 % of all
participantshadbetween0and2partners).
Hookup Motivation
Participants who reported at least one genital hookup between
T1andT3(n=196) were asked to report on their motivations
for hooking up during this period. Based on SDT (Deci & Rya n,
2000), previous SDT-based studies (e.g., helping motivation)
(Weinstein & Ryan, 2010), and past research on motivation for
casual sex (Garcia & Reiber, 2008; Reagan & Dryer, 1999;
Weaver & Herold, 2000), an eight-item motivation scale was
constructed specifically for this study. Three items assessed
autonomous motives (‘I wanted the fun and enjoyment,’’‘‘I
wanted to explore and learn about my sexuality and myself in
general,’’and ‘‘I believe it is an important experience to have’’),
three assessed controlled motives (‘‘I wan ted to feel better about
myself, for example, more desirable or more confident, or to
avoid other unpleasant feelings,’’‘‘I wanted to please someone
else, such as my partner or my friends, or because the situation
Table 1 Demographic and sexual behavior characteristics of students
who completed T1 and T3
Variable n% Variable n%
Sex College
Women 338 64.0 Agricultural & life sciences 131 25.0
Men 190 36.0 Architecture, art, & planning 15 2.8
Sex orient Arts & sciences 175 33.1
Heterosexual 418 79.2 Engineering 112 21.2
Mostly
heterosexual
55 10.4 Hotel administration 18 3.4
Bisexual 21 4.0 Human ecology 53 10.0
Mostly gay/
lesbian
14 2.7 Industrial & labor relations 21 4.0
Gay/lesbian 18 3.4 School year
Other 2 0.4 Freshman 231 43.8
Race Junior 296 56.1
White 370 70.1 Relationship status
Asian 73 13.8 Not dating or seeing anyone 250 47.3
Latino 22 4.2 Casually dating or seeing 1 or
more people
71 13.4
Black 20 3.8 In a romantic relationship,
engaged, or married
207 39.2
Other 6 1.1 Perceived socioeconomic class
Multiracial 37 7.0 Lower-middle or lower 83 15.7
Religion Middle 176 33.3
Agnostic/
Atheist
227 43.5 Upper-middle or higher 269 50.9
Catholic 108 20.7 Parents education (highest)
Protestant 80 15.3 Less than BA 64 12.1
Jewish 50 9.5 Bachelor’s degree 119 22.6
Other 57 10.3 Graduate/professional 344 65.3
Genital romantic
sex by T3
401 76.1 Genital hook up 246 46.7
Variable MSDRange
No. of hookup partners—genital 2.21 4.48 0–35
Due to missing data, Ns range between 522 and 528. All variables were
assessed at T1 unless noted otherwise
Arch Sex Behav
123
seemed to compel it,’’and‘‘I wanted to get a favor or some kind of
material reward from someone, or get revenge against some-
one’), and one assessed amotivation (‘‘I was somehow tricked or
coerced into it, or otherwise unable to make a responsible deci-
sion, for example, due to alcohol or drugs; I did not actually want
to hook up’). An additional item asked about relationship reasons
(‘I was hoping it would lead to a long-term relationship’). Par-
ticipants identified how frequentlyeachreasonledthemtohook
up between T1 and T3 on a scale of 1 (none of my hookups)to7
(all of my hookups).
As expected, principal component analysis identified three
factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.0. The first factor
(eigenvalue =2.32) explained 29 %, the second factor (eigen-
value =1.33)explained 17 %, and the third factor (eigenvalue
=1.03) explained 13 % of the variance in the items. Following
varimax rotation, the three items constructed to assess auton-
omous motivation loaded on the first factor with an average
loading of .75, the four items designed to assess controlled
motivation (including relationship motivation) loaded on the
second factor with an average loading of .65, and the sole
amotivation item loaded on the third factor with a loading of .87.
No items cross-loaded above .36. Two mean scores per par-
ticipants were computed based on these ratings. The three items
loading on the first factor were averaged into an autonomous
motivation score. Controlled motivation and amotivation are
both theorized to be similarly—negatively—linked to well-
being outcomes (Deci & Ryan, 2000) and that was the case in
the current study with all four well-being outcomes in pre-
liminary zero-order correlations (data available on request).
Therefore, the items loading on the second and the third factor
were averaged into one non-autonomous motivation score.
1
Outcome Variables
Allwell-beingoutcomeswereassessedatT1andT3.The
variables are constructed as means of all the items, with higher
scores indicating greater presence of the variable.
Depression and Anxiety Depression and anxiety were ass-
essed using the corresponding subscales of the Brief Symptom
Inventory (Derogatis, 1993). Participants rated the extent to
whichtheyweredistressedinthepastweekbyfiveindicatorsof
depression (e.g., ‘‘feeling blue’’) and six indicators of anxiety
(e.g.,‘‘spellsof terroror panic’)ona five-pointLikertscalefrom
1(notatall)to5(extremely). Cronbach’s aat T1 and T3 were
.85 and .84 for depression and .86 and .89 for anxiety, respec-
tively.
Self-Esteem The10-itemRosenbergSelf-EsteemScale(Ros-
enberg, 1965) was used to measure general self-esteem.
Participants rated their agreement with each statement (e.g., ‘I
take a positive attitudes toward myself’) on a 5-point Likert
scale from 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree). Cron-
bach’s awas .91 at both T1 and T3.
Physical Symptoms Physical health-related issues were ass-
essed using an adapted version of the Emmons’ (1991)check-
list. Using a scale from 0 (not once)to7(everyday),particip ants
noted on how many days in the previous week they exp erienced
five different physical symptoms, including cold and flu symp-
toms, aches and pains, digestive problems, allergies, and sleep-
ing difficulties. Items were standardized before constructing
mean scores. Cronbach’s awas .50 at T1 and .64 at T3.
Control Variables
Extraversion and Neuroticism At T1, participants completed
the Neuroticism and Extraversion subscales of the Mini IPIP
Scale (Donelan, Oswald, Baird, & Lucas, 2006) with four items
for extraversion (e.g.,‘‘I am the life of the party’) and fo ur items
for neuroticism(e.g.,‘‘I get upset easily’). Participants rated the
extent to which each item described their usual behavior on a
scale of 1 (very inaccurate)to5(very accurate). Cronbach’s a
was 0.77 for neuroticism and 0.85 for extraversion.
Socioeconomic Status (SES) SES was assessed by mother’s
and father’s education level on a seven-point scale from 1 (did
not finish high school)to7(doctoral or professional degree)
and participants’ perceived economic class their family belonged
to on a seven-point scale from 1 (poverty class)to7(wealthy
class). The three items were positively correlated, rs ranging
from .40 to .51, and were standardized and averaged into one
composite SES score (Cronbach’s a=.70).
Results
Descriptive Information
Descriptive data and zero-order correlations between well-
being outcomes atT3, genital hookups between T1 andT3, and
autonomous and controlled hookup motivation are shown in
Table 2. Over the course of the academic year, 37 % of all
participants had at least one genital hookup and these per-
centages were similar in both sexes. Among those with at least
one genital hookup (n=196), autonomous hookup motivation
was significantly higher than non-autonomous hookup moti-
vation, paired t(195) =20.09, p\.001. Our fourth hypothesis
was not confirmed: Both sexes had similar levels of autono-
mous and non-autonomous hookup motivation.
Hooking Up and Well-Being
To examine the main effects of hooking up on well-being (H1),
we conducted a MANCOVA with the four well-being variables
1
The results were virtually identical, albeit somewhat weaker, when the
amotivation item was excluded from the non-autonomous motivation
score or when controlled motivation and amotivation weree treated as
separate variables (data available on request).
Arch Sex Behav
123
at T3 (depression, anxiety, physical symptoms, and self-
esteem) as outcomes, genital hookups between T1 and T3 (yes
vs. no), biologic sex (male vs. female), and their interaction as
predictors. School year (freshman vs. junior), SES, neuroti-
cism, extraversion, any genital romantic sex by T3, number of
lifetime genital hookup partners at T1 (log-transformed), and
the three well-being scores at T1 served as covariates.
2
The
MANCOVA revealed no significant multivariate main effect
for hookups between T1 and T3, Wilks’ k=0.99, F(4, 496) =
1.30, but a significant multivariate interaction between biologic
sex and T1-T3 hookups, Wilks’ k=0.98, F(4, 496) =2.48,
p=.043, partial g
2
=.02. To examine this interaction further,
we conducted separate ANCOVAs for each of the four T3
outcome variables, controlling for the respective T1 well-
being and all other controls.
3
As hypothesized, hooking up was not related to depression,
F(1, 506)\1, physical symptoms, F(1, 507)\1, or self-esteem,
F(1, 514)\1. Non-significant interactions with sex for all three
outcomes, F(1, 506) =1.58, F(1, 507) =1.28, and, F(1, 514) =
1.02, respectively, indicated this was true of both women and
men. For anxiety, a non-significant main effect of hooking up,
F(1, 504) =2.20, was moderated by a significant interaction
with sex, F(1, 504) =11.00, p\.001. Follow-up tests indicated
no significant difference in anxiety between women who had
hooked up (HU) or not hooked up (No-HU), d=-0.14. HU
men, on the other hand, had significantly higher anxiety than
No-HU men, p\.01, d=0.44.
Hookup Motivation and Well-Being Among the Hookup
Experienced
The second set of analyses examined the role of self-determi-
nation in hookup motivation on well-being among those who
hooked up between T1 and T3. Hierarchical linear regressions
were conducted for each T3 well-being outcome among those
who had at least one genital hookup between T1 and T3
(n=196). Control variables (same as in the first set of analyses)
were entered at Step 1, autonomous and non-autonomous
hookup motivation (both centered) were entered at Step 2, and
their interaction terms with biological sex were entered at Step
3. Results are shown in Table 3.
The second hypothesis that self-determined hookup moti-
vation would be associated with higher well-being was con-
firmed regarding nonautonomy (H2b), but not autonomy
(H21). As Table 3shows, the effects of autonomous hookup
motivation were not significant for any of the four well-being
outcomes in either sex. Non-autonomous hookup motivation,
on the other hand, showed significant main effects to all four
outcomes in the expected direction: Higher nonautonomy was
linked to lower self-esteem, higher depression and anxiety, and
more physical symptoms. None of the interactions with sex
were significant, indicating this was equally true of both women
and men. Autonomous and non-autonomous hookup motiva-
tion together explained between 3 and 6 % of the variance in
well-being.
Hookup Motivation and Well-Being: Comparisons with
the Hookup Inexperienced
The third set of analyses tested whether hookup motivation
moderatedthelinkbetweenhookingupandwell-being(H3).
Because autonomous motivation did not play a role (positive or
negative) in well-being, we focused solely on the negative
effects of non-autonomous motivation. We divided participants
into three groups based on their genital hookup experience
between T1 and T3 and, among the experienced, their level of
non-autonomous hookup motivation: No-HU (those without
any hookups, n=331), HU-Low Nonautonomy (those with at
least one hookup and a below-median score on non-autono-
mous motivation, n=101),and HU-HighNonautonomy(those
with at least one hookup and an above-median score on non-
autonomous motivation, n=95). We hypothesized that HU-
High Nonautonomy would have lower well-being than No-HU
peers (H3a), but that HU-Low Nonautonomy students would
not differ from or would surpass in well-being No-HU peers
(H3b).
To test these hypotheses, we first conducted a MANCOVA
with the four well-being variables at T3 (depression, anxiety,
physical symptoms, and self-esteem) as outcomes, including
the three-group hookup motivation status variable, biological
sex and their interaction as predictors, and all control variables
as in the previous analyses. The MANCOVA revealed a sig-
nificant multivariate main effect for hookup motivation status,
Wilks’ k=0.94, F(8, 986) =3.66, p\.001, partial g
2
=.029,
and a non-significant multivariate interaction between sex and
motivation hookup status, Wilks’ k=0.97, F(8, 986) =1.78.
We examined these effects with separate ANCOVAs for each
of the four T3 outcome variables; the interactions with sex were
maintained in the models due to the theoretical importance of
testing sex differences in the context of casual sex. Significant
main and interactive effects were followed with planned com-
parisons between the No-HU and HU-Low Nonautonomy
groups, and between the No-HU and HU-High Nonauton-
omy groups. Adjusted means for the three groups separately
by sex, and for the sample as a whole, are illustrated in Fig. 1.
For depression, there was a main effect of hookup motivation
status, F(2, 503) =6.67, p\.01, and a non-significant interac-
tion with sex, F(2, 503) =2.68. Planned pairwise comparisons
2
Initial analyses also controlled for sexual orientation (heterosexual vs.
nonheterosexual) and race (White vs. Nonwhite).Neither was significant
and both were excluded from final models.
3
Initial analyses also controlled for interactions between T1–T3
hookups and all control variables (as recommended by Yzerbyt, Muller,
& Judd, 2004); most of these interactions were non-significant and, in all
cases, had no impact on the main results, so we excluded them from the
final analyses.
Arch Sex Behav
123
showed that HU-High Nonautonomy participants had signifi-
cantly higher depression than No-HU peers, p\.01, d=0.33,
supporting H3a. On the other hand, there was no difference
between the HU-Low Nonautonomy and No-HU groups (d=
-0.11), supporting H3b.
For self-esteem, there was also a significant main effect
of hookup motivation status, F(2, 501) =9.33, p\.001, and a
non-significant interaction with sex, F(2, 502)\1. Planned
pairwisecomparisonsshowedthatthedifferencein self-esteem
between the HU-High Nonautonomy and No-HU groups was
in the direction hypothesized by H3a (lower in HU-High
Nonautonomy participants, d=-0.19), but was only margin-
ally significant (p\.09). In support of H3b, HU-Low Nonau-
tonomy students had higher self-esteem than their No-HU
peers, p\.01, d=0.34.
For physical symptoms there was no main effect of hookup
motivation status, F(2, 504) =2.30, or moderation with sex,
F(2, 504)\1. Planned comparisons indicated that hooking up,
regardless of non-autonomous motivation, was not linked to
different levels of physical symptoms compared to not hooking
Table 3 Hierarchical linear regression for impact of autonomous and non-autonomous hookup motivation between T1 and T3 on T3 well-being
Predictor Depression Anxiety Physical symptoms Self-esteem
R
2
DBSER
2
DBSER
2
DBSER
2
DBSE
Step 1 .36*** .36*** .30*** .49***
Controls
Step 2 .04** .03* .03* .06***
Autonomous motivation -0.01 0.04 0.04 0.03 0.01 0.04 0.03 0.03
Non-autonomous motivation 0.22** 0.07 0.13* 0.06 0.19* 0.08 -0.25*** 0.05
Step 3 .00 .00 .00 .00
Autonomous motivation 9sex -0.03 0.04 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.04 -0.02 0.03
Non-autonomous motivation 9sex -0.02 0.07 -0.01 0.06 -0.06 0.08 0.04 0.05
Total R
2
.41 .38 .33 .56
N192 191 192 195
Includes only participants with at least one genital hookup between T1 and T3. All models control for sex, race (white vs. nonwhite), school year
(freshman vs. junior), SES, sexual orientation (heterosexual vs. nonheterosexual), neuroticism, extraversion, any genital romantic sex experience by
T3, number of genital hookup partners by T1 (log-transformed to reduce non-normality), and well-being at T1; data not shown. Sex: 1 =female;
-1=male; all other categorical variables were coded 0/1
p\.10; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
Table 2 Descriptive data and correlations for all variables, for men (under the diagonal) and women (above the diagonal)
Measure 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 MSDn
1. T3 depression
a
.67*** .39*** -.68*** -.07 -.02 .25** 2.21 0.87 331
2. T3 anxiety
a
.65*** – .45*** -.49*** -.10
.13 .28** 1.92 0.81 330
3. T3 physical symptoms
a
.47*** .51*** – -.27*** .05 .10 .20* 0.09 1.01 331
4. T3 self-esteem
a
-.67*** -.54*** -.35*** – .10
.08 -.31** 3.93 0.77 338
5. Any genital HU T1–T3
a
.16* .23** .20** -.10 na na 0.37 na 338
6. Autonomous motivation T1–T3
b
.13 .05 .05 -.04 na .12 4.19 1.46 124
7. Non-autonomous motivation T1–T3
b
.34** .29* .20 -.39** na .53*** – 2.04 0.79 124
M2.02 1.67 -0.16 4.01 0.38 4.50 2.23
SD 0.84 0.71 0.96 0.74 na 1.72 0.96
N188 187 188 190 190 72 72
Range 1–5 1–5 -3–3 1–5 0–1 1–7 1–7
Sex differences
c
2.44* 2.06* 2.74** 1.17 \1-1.35 -1.46
a
Includes all participants
b
Includes only participants with at least one genital hookup between T1 and T3
c
Represents v
2
for variable 5; ttest for all other variables
p\.10; * p\.05; ** p\.01; *** p\.001
Arch Sex Behav
123
up. Specifically, there were no differences in physical symptoms
between HU-High Nonautonomy and No-HU participants, d=
0.13 (not supporting H3a), or between HU-Low Nonautonomy
and No-HU participants, d=-0.14 (supporting H3b).
Anxiety was the only outcome where a non-significant effect
of hookup motivation status, F(2, 5 01) =1.75, was moderated
by sex, F(2, 501) =5.02, p\.01. Planned comparisons within
each sex indicated that HU-High Nonautonomy men had higher
anxiety than No-HU men, p\.01, d=0.53, supporting H3a;
HU-Low Nonautonomy men did not differ from their No-HU
peers (d=0.33, p[.08), supporting H3b. Genital hookups had
no effects on anxiety among women regardless of their level of
non-autonomous motivation, as there were no differences in
anxiety between HU-High Nonautonomy and No-HU women,
d=-0.07 (not supporting H3a), or between HU-Low Non-
autonomy and No-HU women, d=-0.19 (supporting H3b).
Discussion
This study examined the longitudinal links between genital
hookups, hookup motivation, and four aspects of well-being
(depression, anxiety, physical symptoms, and self-esteem)
amongcollegestudents.Wefound atleastpartialsupportforthe
prediction that hooking up over the course of one academic year
would have no significant effect on well-being (H1), that self-
determination in hookup motivation would be associated with
higher well-being among the hookup experienced (H2), and
that, when compared to peers without hookups, lower well-
beingwould be present only among thosewith low hookup self-
determination, but not those with high hookup self-determi-
nation (H3). Examining sex differences, the study found no
support for higher hookup self-determination among men com-
pared to women (H4) and only a few sex differences emerged
regarding the other three hypotheses. We discuss each of these
findings in turn.
The general lack of main effects of hooking up on well-being
was consistent with most prior longitudinal research on ado-
lescents and young adults (Eisenberg et al., 2009;Fielder&
Carey, 2010a; Monahan & Lee, 2008; Owen et al., 2011;
Shulman et al., 2009). This was the first longitudinal college
study that employed a university-wide sample and followed
students for longer than one semester; it was also the first
longitudinal study reporting data on well-being outcomes other
than depression and self-esteem. As such, the study significantly
contributes to the generalizability of the conclusion that there are
no negative long-term effects of hooking up on well-being
among college students in general. Although casual sex may
have certain features that many fear renders it potentially more
harmful than romantic sex (e.g., emotional rejection, substance
abuse, less enjoyment), engagement in this behavior per se does
not appear to uniformly affect well-being. This further suggests
1.5
2
2.5
3
No HU
NonAutonomy
HU High
NonAutonomy
Depression
Men Women
1
1.5
2
2.5
No HU
Nonautonomy
HU High
Nonautonomy
Anxiety
Men Women
-1
-0.5
0
0.5
1
No HU
Nonautonomy
HU High
Nonautonomy
Physical symptoms
Men Women
3.5
4
4.5
No HU
HU Low HU Low
HU Low HU Low
Nonautonomy
HU High
Nonautonomy
Self-Esteem
Men Women
Fig. 1 Adjusted well-being means for women and men without genital
hookups between T1 and T3 (No-HU), with genital hookups and low non-
autonomous motivation (HU Low Nonautonomy), and with genital
hookups and high non-autonomous motivation (HU High Nonautonomy).
Means are adjusted for school year, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic
status, neuroticism, extraversion, number of lifetime genital hookup partners
at T1, any romantic genital sex by T3, and T1 well-being. Error bars
represent standard errors
Arch Sex Behav
123
that any links between casual sex and inferior well-being
identified in cross-sectional research (Bersamin et al., 2013;
Grello et al., 2006;Pauletal.,2000) are more likely to be due
to a causal link is in the opposite direction—from inferior well-
beingtocasualsex.Several longitudinalstudieshaveidentified
such links among adolescents (Grello et al., 2003; Manning,
Longmore,& Giordano,2005; Shulman et al., 2009), although
not college students (Fielder & Carey, 2010a;Owenetal.,
2011).
As predicted, nonautonomy in one’s hookups resulted in
lower well-being across all four outcomes and both sexes. This
is a typical finding in SDT across a variety of areas of human
action (Ryan, Deci, Grolnick, & LaGuardia, 2006)andshowed
that SDT processes apply, at least to some extent, to the casual
sex context. Although hookup motivation explained only a
small percent of the variance in well-being (3–6 %), our results
suggest it was a significant determinant of well-being following
hookups. Furthermore, level of nonautonomy in one’s hookups
was consequential in comparisons with peers without hookups.
Those high on nonautonomy in their hookups reported poorer
self-esteem, higher depression, and higher anxiety (among men
only) than their no-hookup peers, suggesting that hooking up for
the‘‘wrong’’reasons may be a stressful life event compared to no
hooking up. Those low on nonautonomy in their hookups, on the
other hand, did not differ from and, in the case of self-esteem,
surpassed in well-being their peers without any hookups. This
suggests that hooking up in the absence of non-autonomous
reasons may have the power to buffer against any negative
consequences of hookups and may, in fact, represent an uplift-
ing life event with potential for fostering positive growth.
The effects of non-autonomous hookup motivation on well-
being among the hookup experienced and in comparison with
the hookup inexperienced were quite robust. They emerged
above and beyond the effects of several potential confounds
testedin our analyses, specificallyromanticsex and priorcasual
sex experience, as well as two major personality traits that are
known to be linked to casual sex (Schmitt, 2005), motivation
(Deci & Ryan, 1985), and well-being (Costa & McCrae, 1980)—
extraversion and neuroticism. Furthermore, the results of both
sets of analyses and for all four well-being outcomes at T3
remain virtually identical when the models controlled for the
level of all four well-being variables at T1, or when the com-
parison group included only those with romantic sex experi-
ences (tables available on request).
In this study, autonomous motivation was not related (pos-
itively or negatively) to any well-being outcomes. Given exten-
sive support for the positive role of autonomy in well-being in
other areas of human action (Ryan et al., 2006), this was an
unexpected finding. One possible explanation is that the spe-
cific assessment of autonomy in hooking up used here failed to
capture the essence of autonomy in a way that would make a dif-
ference to well-being. Another possibility is that demandchar-
acteristics introduced a substantial amount of error in ourmeas-
ure, because the autonomous reasons appear more ‘‘respect-
able’’reasonsto engage in a behavior with relatively lowoverall
social respectability. This may have led even those with little
autonomous motivation to report it to a greater extent, whether
due toconscious effortsto‘‘save face’’orunconscious processes
such as cognitive dissonance. The effects of such demand char-
acteristicscould befurthercompoundedby retroactivememory
biases making it easier for participants to report autonomous
motivation when there was none. Yet another possibility is that
this finding was due to our selection of well-being outcomes. In
SDT research, most common outcomes are not negative ones,
such as depression or anxiety, but positive ones, such as life
satisfaction, happiness, or vitality. It is also possible that casual
sex is in some way different from other areas to which SDT has
been applied such that autonomy does not have the power to
positively affect well-being in this context. These possibilities
need to be addressed in future research.
Sex Differences
Theory and prior research suggest that women are less inter-
ested in casual sex (Buss & Schmitt, 1993; Petersen & Hyde,
2010) and more likely to engage in it for non-autonomous
reasons (Regan & Dreyer, 1999). Furthermore, concerns have
been raised that women might be disproportionately affected by
any negative consequences of casual sex (Paul, 2006; Town-
send, 1995). These sex differences were not borne out by the
data in this study. Women and men reported virtually identical
rates of casual sex, and indistinguishable levels of both auton-
omous and non-autonomous motivation for engagement in it.
This suggests that, although distal evolutionary concerns regar-
ding short-term mating may be more relevant for women than
men, on a proximal level, casual sex may have equal appeal to
both sexes among current generations of young people. This
process would likely be helped by increasingly more permis-
sive sexual attitudes in the West (Kraaykamp, 2002; Thornton
& Young-DeMarco, 2001) and the waning influence of the
sexual double standard (Marks & Fraley, 2005), even though
unrestricted female sexuality is still judged more harshly than
men’s, especially in more subtle ways (Marks, 2008; Marks &
Fraley, 2006; Vrangalova et al., 2013). This is not inconsistent
with evolutionary theories that predict that, due to strategic
pluralism (i.e., the idea that mating strategies vary according to
environmental conditions), at least some women with certain
personal and social characteristics would be highly interested in
casual sex (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000).
Perhaps more surprisingly, the single negative link between
hooking up and well-being that emerged was seen among men,
not women. Specifically, men who had a genital hookup over
the course of the academic year had higher anxiety than their
hookup-inexperienced peers, and hookup nonautonomy only
partially buffered against this effect. Anxiety has not been
studied much in relation to casual sex previously: We could
Arch Sex Behav
123
identify only one such study, which found no cross-sectional
relationship between trait anxiety and one-night stands in a
community-based sample of adult men (Bancroft et al., 2004).
A link to higher anxiety may be due to the uncertainty inherent
in casual sexual interactions in terms of their future outcome, or
due to fear of potential negative consequences, such as unwan-
ted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, or reputation
loss, all of which are relatively common reactions following
casual sex (Campbell, 2008; Glenn & Marquardt, 2001;Paul&
Hayes, 2002). Why this effect was only seen in males is less
clear. It is possible that post-hookup fears and uncertainty were
higher among this particular sample of men. Another possi-
bility is that as hookups become more normative among college
students—further compounded by pluralisticignorance,that is,
generally false beliefs regarding their high prevalence among
others in this group (Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003; Reiber &
Garcia, 2010),collegemen mayfeelgreaterpressuretoperform
well in their hookups leading to greater anxiety. This issue
deserves future examination.
The sex difference in anxiety notwithstanding, the results of
this study more strongly favor a conclusion of few to no sex
differences in the strength and type of hookup motivation or in
the link between hookup motivation and well-being. This is
consistent with prior SDT research, which typically finds no sex
differences in the operation of SDT processes (Deci & Ryan,
2000).
Limitations and Future Research
The university-wide sample representative in terms of race and
college enrollment was a strength of this study; nonetheless, the
sample represented a relatively homogeneous group of well-
educated and privileged students at an elite school. Future
research needs to examine these effects in other, more diverse
groups of young adults. Another limitation was the relatively
low response rate (13 %), which is somewhat lower than the
average response rate of online surveys in general (Cook,
Heath, & Thompson, 2002). The low response rate raises the
possibility that, although the sample was unbiased by recruit-
ment procedures, some self-selection bias may have occurred,
including a 1.7:1 ratio of women to men (university-wise, this
ratiois1:1).Moreover,despitetherelativelylargesample,only
a minority (37 %) engaged in at least one genital hookup over
the academicyear, resulting in some tests to beunderpowered.
The prevalence of hookups in our sample was lower than other
studies, many of which report prevalence of 50 % or higher
over one or two semesters (Fielder & Carey, 2010a;Holman&
Sillars, 2012; Olmstead et al., 2013; Owen et al., 2011). This
difference may have to do with greater focus on academics at
this Ivy League university compared to the institutions sam-
pled in other studies, most of which are large public universi-
ties and some rank particularly high on lists of the best‘‘party
schools’(Fiesta Frog, 2013;Randolph,2013). The difference
could also be due to our university-wide sample as opposed to
mostly social science samples in prior studies. For example,
only 23% of engineering students in the current study had a
genital hookup during the year, compared to 62 % of students
in the colleges of International and Labor Relations or Hotel
Admini-
stration.
The definition of hookup used in the study was broad: It
included any kind of genital contact. We chose this level of
sexual intimacy because many hookups do not involve inter-
course (Fielder & Carey, 2010b) and for statistical power pur-
poses(only 27 %of participantshad an intercourse hookup over
the academic year). More restrictive definitions should be
examined in future work, as there are sociocultural (Peterson &
Muelhenhard, 2007), evolutionary (Townsend & Wasserman,
2011), neurochemical (Young & Wang, 2004), and empirical
(Fielder & Carey, 2010a;Pauletal.,2000) reasons to believe
that hookups involving intercourse may have greater impact on
well-being than hookups involving less physically intimate
sexual acts. Furthermore, the hookup variables used in this
studycombinedshorter(e.g.,one-nightstands)andlonger(e.g.,
friends-with-benefits) casual interactions. Future research
should examine these separately, as they may impact well-
being differently, perhaps due to differences in the frequency or
level of sexual and non-sexual contact, personal disclosure,
intentionality, emotional attachment, or s ubstance and condom
use present in each (Jonason, Li, & Richardson, 2011;Romero-
Daza & Freidus, 2008; Wentland & Reissing, 2011). In addi-
tion, ourassessment didnot distinguish (casual)dating partners
as a separate category; it is possible that participants varied in
how they classified such partners, introducing some level of
error in the data, particularly as it pertains to measurement and
meaning of relationship motivation.
Several limitations stem from our measure of hooking up
motives. Reporting of motivation was retrospective, extending
acrossall hookupsthat occurredoverthecourseofthe academic
year. This likely affected the reliability of the measure both
directly and indirectly by aiding the conscious (e.g., lying to
‘save face’) or unconscious (e.g., cognitive disson ance) effects
of demand characteristics on reporting autonomous versus non-
autonomous reasons. Another limitation was the relatively short
measureofself-determinationusedinthisstudywhereseveral
items combined multiple ideas and may have been confus-
ing. Furthermore, the endpoints of the scale were anchored
by‘‘none of my hookups’’ and‘‘all of my hookups’’ and this may
have different meanings for those with a single versus many
hookups. Finally, there was an unusually high overlapbetween
autonomous and non-autonomous motivation among men
(r=.53), indicating that hookup motivation among men was
less differentiated along the self-determination continuum or
that our measure was less successful at capturing the relevant
gradations in motivation among men. Future research should
focus on developing a more standardized Self-Regulation
Arch Sex Behav
123
Questionnaire for the casual sex context (Ryan & Connell, 1989),
and one that is equally appropriate for men and women.
Finally, this study addressed only one of many potential fac-
tors that influence the link between casual sex and well-being;
other factors, such as expectations, personality, attachment styles,
substance and condom use, partner communication, or social
norms need to be examined. Furthermore, although there are a
number of possibilities for the mechanisms by which casual sex
affect well-being (e.g., substance use, societal disapproval,
sexual/reproductive health consequences, etc.), these have yet
to be empirically tested using mediational analyses.
Implications
These results, together with some prior findings (Fielder &
Carey, 2010a; Grello et al., 2006; Meier, 2007; Owen & Fin-
cham, 2011; Owen et al., 2010,2011;Pauletal.,2000), indicate
that not all hookups have the same potential to benefit or harm
well-being and not all individuals are equally susceptible to
this potential; instead, this depends on many individual, social,
and situational factors. By examining motivation as one such
potential factor, this study contributes to shifting research away
frommain effectsand toward a more informativeexplorationof
moderators and mediators. Such refined understanding could
also help shift education, public policy, and clinical work away
from uniform, one-size-fits-all strategies and messages regard-
ing casual sex and its health consequences, and toward more
individuallytailored,and, thus, more useful, approaches. Given
that (proximal) motivation is a factor that precedes hooking up
behavior and is largely cognitively accessible to and under con-
scious control of the individual, motivation may be a particu-
larly useful tool in helping young adults to make responsible
and informed decisions regarding their sexual behavior. Spe-
cifically, young people need to be informed that whether their
psychological and physical well-being benefits or suffers fol-
lowing casual sex may be crucially dependent on their reasons
for engaging in it. They should be encouraged to examine their
motives prior to hooking up, and provided with the practical,
emotional, and social skills to choose to refrain from hooking up
when their motives are primarily of the ‘wrong’ (i.e., non-auton-
omous) type.
Acknowledgments This research was partially supported by a grant-
in-aid from the Foundation for Scientific Study of Sexuality, a grant-in-
aid from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and a
grant from the Human Ecology Alumni Association, Cornell University,
all awarded to Zhana Vrangalova for conducting her doctoral disserta-
tion research. I would like to thank Rachel Mack, Melany Bradshaw, and
Vickie Liang for their help with data collection and preparation.
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... Research using motivational frameworks has reported minimal and non-significant gender differences in emotional outcomes following sex and argues that outcomes are different depending on the individual's sexual motivation. Motivational theories posit that sex is used strategically to pursue different goals, and that different motivations explain differences in psychological outcome following sex (Vrangalova, 2015). ...
... The study concluded that there were no long-term negative consequences on psychological wellbeing following casual sex. Additionally, Vrangalova (2015) investigated the influence of gender and motivation on emotional outcome. Using Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2012), it was hypothesised that people engaging in the same behaviour would have different psychological outcomes depending on whether the motivation was autonomous (self-directed), controlled (other-directed) or amotivated (no intention for behaviour). ...
... While a number of studies have looked at the various motivations behind engaging in casual sex (Grubbs et al., 2019;McMahan & Olmstead, 2021;Sevi et al., 2018;Vrangalova, 2015), and separately, the outcomes (emotional and otherwise) following casual sex (see Wesche et al., 2020 for a systematic review), far fewer have examined the relationship between these variables. ...
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Casual sex, also referred to as a hookup, has been associated with a range of negative emotional outcomes for women, including regret, anxiety, depression and social stigma. However, it has been argued that it is the nature of the sexual motivation, not gender that influences the emotional outcome. This study was designed to ascertain what motivates people to have casual sex, what emotional outcomes follow casual sex and whether there are gender differences among these variables. Seven hundred and one participants (47% men and 52.8% women) completed a 44-item online survey. Gender differences were found for both sexual motivations and emotional outcomes of casual sex, with women generally having more negative emotional outcomes than men. Additionally, a principal components analysis uncovered four reliable principal motivations underlying engagement in casual sex, and three principal emotional outcomes of casual sex. Predictors of negative emotional outcomes included being motivated to regulate negative emotions and to achieve positive emotions. No predictors (apart from being a man) were found for a positive emotional outcome. While the stigma surrounding female sexual agency is diminishing, results generally support the presence of a sexual double-standard which encourages male promiscuity but dissuades female sexual autonomy.
... Women have casual sex for different reasons, such as seeking physical pleasure, intimacy, peer approval, and self-esteem boost (Armstrong & Reissing, 2015;Garcia & Reiber, 2008;Kenney et al., 2013;Regan & Dreyer, 1999;Stephenson et al., 2011;Vrangalova, 2015;Weaver & Herold, 2000). It stands to reason that not all motives to have casual sex will facilitate sexual need fulfillment and positive sexual experiences in a casual sexual context. ...
... It stands to reason that not all motives to have casual sex will facilitate sexual need fulfillment and positive sexual experiences in a casual sexual context. Existing literature shows that self-determined motives and behaviors are linked to positive sexual outcomes and wellbeing (Brunell & Webster, 2013;Jenkins, 2004;Kaestle & Evans, 2018;Sanchez et al., 2006;Vrangalova, 2015). Guided by self-determination theory, the first aim of this study is to understand how sexual motives with different levels of autonomy (pleasure and insecurity) are associated with women's orgasmic function in casual sex. ...
... In both men and women, having nonautonomous reasons in hook-ups or casual sex is fairly common (Garcia & Reiber, 2008). However, pursuing extrinsic goals hinders basic need satisfaction, and thus having casual sex for nonautonomous reasons (e.g., pressure from a partner or friends) has been associated with lower self-esteem, higher depression, higher anxiety, lower well-being, and higher sexual victimization (Impett et al., 2005;Townsend et al., 2020;Vrangalova, 2015). ...
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Existing literature shows conflicting and inconclusive evidence regarding women’s sexual experiences in casual sex. Some studies have found negative sexual outcomes (e.g., fewer orgasms), while others have found positive sexual outcomes (e.g., more orgasms, higher sexual satisfaction) when women had casual sex. According to self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), people’s needs are fulfilled when their choice and behavior are self-motivated and reflect their intrinsic values. We hypothesized that women’s autonomous motivation to have casual sex would be associated with higher orgasmic function, whereas nonautonomous motivation would be associated with lower orgasmic function in casual sex. We also hypothesized that sexual assertiveness would mediate the relationship between sexual motives and orgasmic function in casual sex. Participants in this study were women (N = 401) aged 18–59 years who reported having had casual sex in the past 12 months. Participants completed an online survey reporting their motives to have casual sex, sexual assertiveness, and orgasmic function (e.g., orgasm frequency, satisfaction with orgasm) in casual sex. We focused on two motives: (a) pleasure motive and (b) insecurity (i.e., self-esteem boost and pressure) motive. Results showed that greater pleasure (autonomous) motives related to higher sexual assertiveness, which in turn related to higher orgasmic function in casual sex. In contrast, greater insecurity (nonautonomous) motives related to lower sexual assertiveness, which in turn related to lower orgasmic function in casual sex. The findings support self-determination theory, suggesting that autonomous motives are important for women’s sexual experience in casual sex.
... Women have casual sex for different reasons, such as seeking physical pleasure, intimacy, peer approval, and self-esteem boost (Armstrong & Reissing, 2015;Garcia & Reiber, 2008;Kenney et al., 2013;Regan & Dreyer, 1999;Stephenson et al., 2011;Vrangalova, 2015;Weaver & Herold, 2000). It stands to reason that not all motives to have casual sex will facilitate sexual need fulfillment and positive sexual experiences in a casual sexual context. ...
... It stands to reason that not all motives to have casual sex will facilitate sexual need fulfillment and positive sexual experiences in a casual sexual context. Existing literature shows that self-determined motives and behaviors are linked to positive sexual outcomes and well-being (Brunell & Webster, 2013;Jenkins, 2004;Kaestle & Evans, 2018;Sanchez et al., 2006;Vrangalova, 2015). Guided by self-determination theory, the first aim of this study is to understand how sexual motives with different levels of autonomy (pleasure and insecurity) are associated with women's orgasmic function in casual sex. ...
... In both men and women, having nonautonomous reasons in hook-ups or casual sex is fairly common (Garcia & Reiber, 2008). However, pursuing extrinsic goals hinders basic need satisfaction, and thus having casual sex for nonautonomous reasons (e.g., pressure from a partner or friends) has been associated with lower self-esteem, higher depression, higher anxiety, lower well-being, and higher sexual victimization (Impett et al., 2005;Townsend et al., 2020;Vrangalova, 2015). ...
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Existing literature shows conflicting and inconclusive evidence regarding women’s sexual experiences in casual sex. Some studies have found negative sexual outcomes (e.g., fewer orgasms) while others have found positive sexual outcomes (e.g., more orgasms, higher sexual satisfaction) when women had casual sex. According to self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), people’s needs are fulfilled when their choice and behavior are self-motivated and reflect their intrinsic values. We hypothesized that women’s autonomous motivation to have casual sex would be associated with higher orgasmic function, whereas nonautonomous motivation would be associated with lower orgasmic function in casual sex. We also hypothesized that sexual assertiveness would mediate the relationship between sexual motives and orgasmic function in casual sex. Participants in this study were women (N = 401) aged 18–59 years who reported having had casual sex in the past 12 months. Participants completed an online survey reporting their motives to have casual sex, sexual assertiveness, and orgasmic function (e.g., orgasm frequency, satisfaction with orgasm) in casual sex. We focused on two motives: (a) pleasure motive and (b) insecurity (i.e., self-esteem boost and pressure) motive. Results showed that greater pleasure (autonomous) motives related to higher sexual assertiveness, which in turn related to higher orgasmic function in casual sex. In contrast, greater insecurity (nonautonomous) motives related to lower sexual assertiveness, which in turn related to lower orgasmic function in casual sex. The findings support self-determination theory, suggesting that autonomous motives are important for women’s sexual experience in casual sex.
... Further, relational and sexual motivations have significant implications for individual and interpersonal well-being (Brunell & Webster, 2013;Gable & Impett, 2012;Impett, Strachman, Finkel, & Gable, 2008;Muise, Impett, & Desmarais, 2013;Smith, 2007;Vrangalova, 2015;Wood et al., 2018). Motivations for engaging in and maintaining romantic and sexual partnerships are linked to how satisfied people feel in relationships (Brunell & Webster, 2013;Muise et al., 2013;Wood et al., 2018), levels of commitment and intimacy (Gaine & LaGuardia, 2009), and as indicators of psychological wellness, such as self-esteem, depression, and anxiety (Patrick, Knee, Canevello, & Lonsbarry, 2007;Vrangalova, 2015). ...
... Further, relational and sexual motivations have significant implications for individual and interpersonal well-being (Brunell & Webster, 2013;Gable & Impett, 2012;Impett, Strachman, Finkel, & Gable, 2008;Muise, Impett, & Desmarais, 2013;Smith, 2007;Vrangalova, 2015;Wood et al., 2018). Motivations for engaging in and maintaining romantic and sexual partnerships are linked to how satisfied people feel in relationships (Brunell & Webster, 2013;Muise et al., 2013;Wood et al., 2018), levels of commitment and intimacy (Gaine & LaGuardia, 2009), and as indicators of psychological wellness, such as self-esteem, depression, and anxiety (Patrick, Knee, Canevello, & Lonsbarry, 2007;Vrangalova, 2015). Therefore, understanding the reasons for which people engage in CNM is key to helping individuals and partners maintain and enhance their personal and interpersonal well-being. ...
... A great deal of evidence supports the notion that relational and sexual motivations are linked to psychological and relational well-being (Brunell & Webster, 2013;Gaine & LaGuardia, 2009;Hadden et al., 2015., Knee et al., 2013LaGuardia & Patrick, 2008;Muise et al., 2013;Wood et al., 2018;Vallerand et al., 2008;Vrangalova, 2015). ...
Article
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Sexual, romantic, and intimate relationships provide opportunities for individual and interpersonal fulfillment and the enhancement of well-being. Though research has identified that consensual non-monogamy (CNM) offers unique relational benefits, little work has examined why individuals pursue CNM relationships. Both self-determination theory and self-expansion theory provide frameworks for understanding the range of intra- and interpersonal motives for choosing or negotiating a multipartnered relationship. We explored the reasons for which people engage in CNM and discuss how motivations for CNM might be linked to well-being and need fulfillment. Our study used a qualitative approach to examine the motivations individuals report for engaging in CNM relationships. As part of a larger online survey, participants completed open-ended questions examining motivations for, and experiences of, CNM relationships. Data from participants who indicated that they were currently in a CNM partnership was selected for the analyses (n = 540). Data were analyzed using thematic analysis, within a critical realist framework. Motivations were organized into six interconnected themes: reasons related to autonomy, beliefs and value systems, relationality, sexuality, growth and expansion, and pragmatism. Individuals reported diverse reasons for engaging in CNM relationships; reasons addressed both individual and relational needs and well-being. Findings contrast with stereotypic views of CNM relationships as unstable/unfulfilling or that individuals engage in CNM because of relationship problems. The findings may facilitate therapeutic interventions for counselors working with individuals who are in the process of negotiating or re-negotiating relationship boundaries.
... When a FWBR that is based primarily on sex (more so than friendship) ends, however, individuals report higher levels of loneliness and psychological distress (Owen et al., 2013). Additionally, other work has indicated hooking up to be related to anxiety (Vrangalova, 2015), potentially because such encounters are often associated with concerns regarding relational outcomes (Paul & Hayes, 2002). Even for the more sex-based types of FWBRs, it is possible that FWB partners would feel more secure about the nature and direction of the relationship and may avoid psychological harm, if the rules can be explicitly negotiated and agreed upon. ...
Article
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Establishing communicative and behavioral boundaries in romantic relationships provides partners with a greater sense of relational stability and certainty. For romantic relationships, these boundaries, such as sexual exclusivity, are relatively straightforward. For casual sex relationships, however, the relational rules are less stable and certain. This exploratory study examined rules in friends with benefits relationships (FWBRs) for 109 college students in the USA. Responses to open-ended questions were collected through an online questionnaire, and data were qualitatively analyzed through an inductive thematic analysis. The data were structured into communication rules, sexual rules, and relational definition rules. Results provide overlap and extension of previous work investigating rules in FWBRs. Notably, participants reported sexual exclusivity as an important rule. Additionally, potentially competing discourses in FWBR rules were best understood through the lens of relational dialectics. Findings reflect a tension in terms of relational work, as partners struggle with maintaining their sexual and friendship relationship while not falling into the “territory” of romantic relationships.
... Because up to 80% of college students report casual sexual experiences and hooking up may replace traditional dating development (Garcia & Reiber, 2008;Bogle, 2008), assessing whether unrestricted sociosexuality impacts well-being or romantic satisfaction is warranted. Research regarding hook up culture and positive versus negative impacts on well-being has thus far been mixed (Fielder & Carey, 2010, Grello, Welsh, & Harper, 2006Grello, Welsh, Harper, & Dickson, 2003;Owen, Quirk, & Fincham, 2013;Vrangalova, 2015). Thus, considering how sociosexuality and each distinct category of nonmarital dating (casual, monogamous, cohabitating, hooking up, friends with benefits, etc.) relates to well-being is an important area of future study. ...
Chapter
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Social relationships are one of the most important facets of well-being and one of the strongest links with both physical and psychological health. Romantic relationships specifically may have a particularly intense impact on well-being due to heightened emotions and cognitions within these close relationships. Prior research has identified the importance of romantic relationships and relationship status for well-being and psychological adjustment, yet less has considered the specific qualities that play a role in this link. I will consider the specific relationship qualities that may particularly benefit or damage well-being. Intimate relationships become increasingly important as individuals transition from dating in adolescence, cohabitating in emerging adulthood, and ultimately marriage in adulthood. I review the extensive literature on the benefits of healthy romantic relationships on well-being, highlighting how each influences the other during different developmental stages of relationships from initiation to dissolution adjustment. I also point to the increasing diversity of understudied romantic experiences (i.e., online, casual, polyamory, arranged versus self-selecting marriages, sexual minority) and highlight important unanswered questions this proliferation leaves open. Future directions for further understanding the unique role of romantic experiences in its association with well-being will be discussed.
... In Nigeria, there are few research studies that interrogate the discourse of socio-cultural and gender norms and how it shapes individual agency of emerging adults to navigate sexual relationships. However, studies in other countries reported high prevalence of unwanted pregnancies, induced abortion, transmission of STIs, high school drop-out rates and these were associated with gender norms and socio-cultural factors embedded in sexual relationships, [1,[8][9]. Meanwhile, some evidence in a number of quantitative studies in Nigeria shows sex differentials in sexual behaviour of young people but not the real gender constructs [10,11]. ...
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Background Socio-cultural and gender-based issues influence sexuality of emerging adults. These gender-based issues worsen sexual health outcomes of emerging adults in studies outside Nigeria. Some of these issues are male dominance in sexual relationships, health care providers’ bias in attending to sexual health needs of emerging adults and age disparate sexual relationships. Studies have reported that males dominate females in sexual relationship largely in part owing to masculinity tendencies. Also, health care providers view emerging adults as randy when seeking information on sexual and reproductive health care services. Added to these is age disparate sexual relationships. Older men engage in exchanged sex while younger females are unable to negotiate condom. All these speak to gender and social inequality in sexual relationships are largely undocumented in Nigeria. Method This study collected information purposively using a qualitative inquiry. Thirty (30) in-depth interviews (IDIs), six (6) Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Eighteen (18) Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) were conducted across the three main ethnic groups in Nigeria. Result Narratives and interviews showed nuanced discourses of all these gendered issues. Males dominated females in sexual relationships through suppression to negotiate condom, diminished females’ individual agency, and engagement in multiple sexual partnerships. Females endured domination of males in sexual relationships to sustain relationships. Also, health providers were biased and indifferent in providing sexual and reproductive health services to emerging adults. This study showed poor socio-economic status makes older men to exploit and take advantage of younger females in sexual relationships. Wide age difference and the notion of fulfilling their side in a paid sexual intercourse made younger females unable to negotiate condom. Conclusion Gender-based issues and socio-cultural norms diminished individual agency of emerging adults, especially females, achieving positive sexuality. Policies that dispel socio-cultural and gendered norms in sexual relationships should be encouraged, including increased awareness on sex education to parents and children, skill acquisitions and empowerment programmes for emerging adults and capacity building of health providers to improve provision of SRH needs of emerging adults.
... O sexo casual é um tipo de experiência na qual ocorrem encontros sexuais entre pessoas que não se conhecem, ou se conhecem pouco, e têm sido um tipo de experiência comum entre jovens universitários ao redor do mundo (Bersamin et al., 2014;Claxton & van Dulmen, 2013;Fielder, Walsh, Carey, & Carey, 2014;Vrangalova, 2015). Comumente, trata-se de um encontro sem planejamento prévio, onde os envolvidos não tem o objetivo de construir uma relação duradoura (Campbell, 2008;Wentland & Reissing, 2014, 2011. ...
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Resumo Este estudo buscou explorar e comparar a percepção dos riscos à saúde física e os comportamentos de saúde do sexo casual entre universitárias com (CEX) e sem experiência (SEX) de sexo casual. Participaram 1.133 universitárias brasileiras (média de idade igual a 21,05 anos, DP = 2,05), a maioria nascidas e residentes na região Sul do país, que responderam a um questionário on-line com questões sobre a percepção dos riscos físicos, comportamentos de saúde, comportamento e histórico sexual. Foi encontrada diferença significativa nos comportamentos de saúde e nas percepções de risco entre os grupos. O grupo CEX apresentou mais comportamentos de saúde e cuidados que o grupo SEX. Embora o sexo casual esteja relacionado aos comportamentos de risco, neste estudo, as mulheres CEX apresentaram mais medidas de proteção à saúde que as mulheres SEX.
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Background: Sociosexuality explains whether people hold an (un)restricted orientation toward casual sex, and its effects on well-being are inconclusive. This study investigates how specifically the facets of sociosexuality relate to three components of well-being in men and women. Methods: Self-report measures of sociosexuality and well-being were assessed in 556 Polish adults. Results: Multi-group confirmatory factor analysis revealed differences in sociosexual attitudes and desire across gender. Structural equation models showed significant results only for men-emotional and psychological well-being were positively predicted by sociosexual behavior and negatively predicted by desire. Conclusions: Sociosexuality predicted well-being differently across gender.
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Mixed method critical realist researcher into the experiences and understanding of Sexual Harassment among Irish Adolescents over a 12 month period.
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Previous research indicates that abortion increases risk for experiencing difficulties maintaining committed relationships, sexual dysfunction, and psychological problems. In the present descriptive study, associations between abortion and attitudes and behaviors associated with casual sexual activity were examined after controlling for family of origin, socio-demographic, reproductive history, and sexual history variables. The National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), a multistage probability sample of 3,432 men and women between the ages of 19 and 59 was the data source. Among women, abortion was associated with more positive attitudes toward sex with strangers and with being forced to have sex; whereas the male experience of a partner abortion was correlated with attitudes endorsing sex with more than one partner and with strangers. Abortion among men and women predicted disagreement relative to restricting sexual activity to love relations, more sex partners in the last year, and endorsement for having sex with an acquaintance. Male experience of a partner abortion also increased the likelihood of having sex with a friend. Finally, abortion predicted engagement in various impersonal sexual behaviors over the previous 12 months among males and females. Strengths of the study include the large nationally representative data source and employment of a variety of control variables.
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In this article, we attempt to distinguish between the properties of moderator and mediator variables at a number of levels. First, we seek to make theorists and researchers aware of the importance of not using the terms moderator and mediator interchangeably by carefully elaborating, both conceptually and strategically, the many ways in which moderators and mediators differ. We then go beyond this largely pedagogical function and delineate the conceptual and strategic implications of making use of such distinctions with regard to a wide range of phenomena, including control and stress, attitudes, and personality traits. We also provide a specific compendium of analytic procedures appropriate for making the most effective use of the moderator and mediator distinction, both separately and in terms of a broader causal system that includes both moderators and mediators. (46 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Researchers are beginning to explore the variety of casual sexual relationships that individuals engage in. These relationships, and the subtle nuances that differentiate them, have not been studied collectively. The purpose of the present study was to qualitatively examine casual sexual relationships (CSRs), ranging from a single encounter to an ongoing sexual relationship with a friend. Male and female focus group participants identified a number of implicit and explicit rules that guide the initiation, maintenance, and termination of four types of casual sexual relationships: One Nights Stands, Booty Calls, Fuck Buddies, and Friends with Benefits. Participants identified these rules regardless of gender or whether they had previous personal experience with any of these CSRs. The results suggest that each of these relationship types can be placed on a continuum of casual sex according to various dimensions, including frequency of contact, type of contact (sexual and/or social), personal disclosure, discussion of the relationship, and friendship. Participants' shared understanding of CSRs suggests that young adults may have common cultural knowledge of these relationships and a fluid conceptualization of what constitutes a relationship.