, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 585-593

Predictors of Heterosexual Casual Sex Among Young Adults

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Abstract

Casual sex is often associated with the young adult stage in the life course. Most recent research on the prevalence, motives, and consequences of heterosexual casual sex has relied on samples of college students, yet students are only a small and advantaged subset of the young adult population. The current study drew on the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study, which was collected in 2006–2007 and included young adults (ages 18–24 years) whose trajectories reflected a wider spectrum of educational experiences (N = 1,023). We moved beyond prior work by examining both frequency and type of heterosexual casual sex: lifetime vaginal, lifetime oral, and recent vaginal sex. We found that young adults enrolled or who graduated from 4-year educational institutions reported fewer casual sex partners on all three measures compared to participants without a high school degree and those with some college experience. Sexual attitudes were key factors mediating the association between educational status and casual sex behavior. These results indicate that programs aimed at encouraging healthy sexual behavior should target individuals who are at risk of not graduating high school because they are at greatest risk of frequent casual sex partners.