Predictors and Consequences of Sexual “Hookups” Among College Students: A Short-term Prospective Study
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“Hookups,” sexual interactions between partners who do not expect a romantic commitment, are believed to be common among adolescents and young adults. Most existing research is cross-sectional and has not investigated the antecedents or consequences of hookups. To our knowledge, this study provides the first prospective investigation of the hypothesized predictors of penetrative sex hookups (i.e., oral, vaginal, and anal sex) and the first exploration of the short-term mental health consequences of hookups. A total of 140 first-semester college students (109 females, 31 males) completed an anonymous survey early in their first semester; the survey assessed 18 potential predictors of hooking up that were identified from theory and past research. At the end of their first semester, students again responded to a survey and provided data on their oral and vaginal sex hookup behavior (occurrence and number of partners), distress, and self-esteem. Baseline and follow-up data were linked using unique codes that protected participants’ anonymity. Pre-college hookup patterns, peak intoxication level, and situational triggers for hookups were consistent predictors of oral and vaginal sex hookup behavior (and number of hookup partners) in the first semester of college. Penetrative sex hookups increased psychological distress for females, but not for males. Implications for education and intervention as well as suggestions for future research are discussed.
KeywordsSexual behavior Hookup Casual sex Mental health Adolescents College students
We thank the students for their participation, Kate B. Carey, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this article, and Hillary L. Bishop for her assistance with data collection and data entry. Supported by Grant R01-MH54929 from the National Institute of Mental Health to Michael P. Carey and by a Graduate Research Grant from Psi Chi to Robyn L. Fielder.
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