Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1425–1441 | Cite as

Predictors of Sexual Hookups: A Theory-Based, Prospective Study of First-Year College Women

  • Robyn L. Fielder
  • Jennifer L. Walsh
  • Kate B. Carey
  • Michael P. Carey
Original Paper


Hooking up, or engaging in sexual interactions outside of committed relationships, has become increasingly common among college students. This study sought to identify predictors of sexual hookup behavior among first-year college women using a prospective longitudinal design. We used problem behavior theory (Jessor, 1991) as an organizing conceptual framework and examined risk and protective factors for hooking up from three domains: personality, behavior, and perceived environment. Participants (N = 483, 67 % White) completed an initial baseline survey that assessed risk and protective factors, and nine monthly follow-up surveys that assessed the number of hookups involving performing oral sex, receiving oral sex, and vaginal sex. Over the course of the school year, 20 % of women engaged in at least one hookup involving receiving oral sex, 25 % engaged in at least one hookup involving performing oral sex, and 25 % engaged in at least one hookup involving vaginal sex. Using two-part modeling with logistic and negative binomial regression, we identified predictors of hooking up. Risk factors for sexual hookups included hookup intentions, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, pre-college hookups, alcohol use, marijuana use, social comparison orientation, and situational triggers for hookups. Protective factors against sexual hookups included subjective religiosity, self-esteem, religious service attendance, and having married parents. Race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, hookup attitudes, depression, cigarette smoking, academic achievement, injunctive norms, parental connectedness, and being in a romantic relationship were not consistent predictors of sexual hookups. Future research on hookups should consider the array of individual and social factors that influence this behavior.


Hooking up Casual sex Sexual behavior College students Women 


  1. Abbey, A. (2002). Alcohol-related sexual assault: A common problem among college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Suppl. 14, 118–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adler, N. E., Epel, E. S., Castellazzo, G., & Ickovics, J. R. (2000). Relationship of subjective and objective social status with psychological and physiological functioning: Preliminary data in healthy, white women. Health Psychology, 19, 586–592.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, B. J., & Stein, M. D. (2011). A behavioral decision model testing the association of marijuana use and sexual risk in young adult women. AIDS and Behavior, 15, 875–884.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Aubrey, J. S., & Smith, S. E. (2011). Development and validation of the Endorsement of the Hookup Culture Index. Journal of Sex Research. doi:10.1080/00224499.2011.637246.
  5. Bachtel, M. K. (2013). Do hookups hurt? Exploring college students’ experiences and perceptions. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, 58, 41–48.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Backstrom, L., Armstrong, E. A., & Puentes, J. (2012). Women’s negotiation of cunnilingus in college hookups and relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 49, 1–12.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Barriger, M., & Vélez-Blasini, C. J. (2013). Descriptive and injunctive social norm overestimation in hooking up and their role as predictors of hook-up activity in a college student sample. Journal of Sex Research, 50, 84–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2004). Sexual economics: Sex as female resource for social exchange in heterosexual interactions. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, 339–363.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bogle, K. A. (2008). Hooking up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bradshaw, C., Kahn, A. S., & Saville, B. K. (2010). To hook up or date: Which gender benefits? Sex Roles, 62, 661–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brimeyer, T. M., & Smith, W. L. (2012). Religion, race, social class, and gender differences in dating and hooking up among college students. Sociological Spectrum, 32, 462–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burdette, A. M., Ellison, C. G., Hill, T. D., & Glenn, N. D. (2009). “Hooking up” at college: Does religion make a difference? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48, 535–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carey, K. B., Scott-Sheldon, L. A. J., Carey, M. P., & DeMartini, K. S. (2007). Individual-level interventions to reduce college student drinking: A meta-analytic review. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 2469–2494.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Charnigo, R., Noar, S. M., Garnett, C., Crosby, R., Palmgreen, P., & Zimmerman, R. S. (2012). Sensation seeking and impulsivity: Combined associations with risky sexual behavior in a large sample of young adults. Journal of Sex Research. doi:10.1080/00224499.2011.652264.
  15. Cooper, M. L., Shapiro, C. M., & Powers, A. M. (1998). Motivations for sex and risky sexual behavior among adolescents and young adults: A functional perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1528–1558.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Costa, F. M., Jessor, R., & Turbin, M. S. (2007). College student involvement in cigarette smoking: The role of psychosocial and behavioral protection and risk. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 9, 213–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Donovan, J. E. (2005). Problem behavior theory. In C. B. Fisher & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Encyclopedia of applied developmental science (Vol. 2, pp. 872–877). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Downing-Matibag, T. M., & Geisinger, B. (2009). Hooking up and sexual risk taking among college students: A health belief model perspective. Qualitative Health Research, 19, 1196–1209.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Dufour, M. C. (1999). What is moderate drinking: Defining “drinks” and drinking levels. Alcohol Research and Health, 23, 5–14.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. England, P., & Thomas, R. J. (2006). The decline of the date and the rise of the college hook up. In A. S. Skolnick & J. H. Skolnick (Eds.), Family in transition (14th ed., pp. 151–162). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  21. Epstein, M., Calzo, J. P., Smiler, A. P., & Ward, L. M. (2009). “Anything from making out to having sex”: Men’s negotiations of hooking up and friends with benefits scripts. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 414–424.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Eshbaugh, E. M., & Gute, G. (2008). Hookups and sexual regret among college women. Journal of Social Psychology, 148, 77–89.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging Working Group. (1999). Multidimensional measurement of religiousness/spirituality for use in health research: A report of the Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging Working Group. Kalamazoo, MI: Fetzer Institute.Google Scholar
  24. Fielder, R. L., & Carey, M. P. (2010a). Predictors and consequences of sexual “hookups” among college students: A short-term prospective study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1105–1119.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Fielder, R. L., & Carey, M. P. (2010b). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual hookups among first-semester female college students. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 36, 346–359.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Fielder, R. L., Carey, K. B., & Carey, M. P. (2012). Are hookups replacing romantic relationships? A longitudinal study of first-year female college students. Journal of Adolescent Health. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.09.001.
  27. Flack, W. F., Daubman, K. A., Caron, M. L., Asadorian, J. A., D’Aureli, N. R., Gigliotti, S. N., … Stine, E. R. (2007). Risk factors and consequences of unwanted sex among university students: Hooking up, alcohol, and stress response. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 139–157.Google Scholar
  28. Frohlich, P., & Meston, C. (2002). Sexual functioning and self-reported depressive symptoms among college women. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 321–325.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Fromme, K., Corbin, W. R., & Kruse, M. I. (2008). Behavioral risks during the transition from high school to college. Developmental Psychology, 44, 1497–1504.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Garcia, J. R., & Reiber, C. (2008). Hook-up behavior: A biopsychosocial perspective. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2, 192–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Garcia, J. R., Reiber, C., Massey, S. G., & Merriweather, A. M. (2012). Sexual hookup culture: A review. Review of General Psychology, 16, 161–176.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Gibbons, F. X., & Buunk, B. P. (1999). Individual differences in social comparison: Development of a scale of social comparison orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 129–142.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Goodson, P., Buhi, E. R., & Dunsmore, S. C. (2006). Self-esteem and adolescent sexual behaviors, attitudes, and intentions: A systematic review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 310–319.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Grello, C. M., Welsh, D. P., & Harper, M. S. (2006). No strings attached: The nature of casual sex in college students. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 255–267.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Gute, G., & Eshbaugh, E. M. (2008). Personality as a predictor of hooking up among college students. Journal of Community Health Nursing, 25, 26–43.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Hamilton, L., & Armstrong, E. A. (2009). Gendered sexuality in young adulthood: Double binds and flawed options. Gender and Society, 23, 589–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Heldman, C., & Wade, L. (2010). Hook-up culture: Setting a new research agenda. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 7, 323–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Helweg-Larsen, M., Harding, H. G., & Klein, W. M. P. (2011). Will I divorce or have a happy marriage?: Gender differences in comparative optimism and estimation of personal chances among U.S. college students. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 33, 157–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Herold, E. S., Maticka-Tyndale, E., & Mewhinney, D. (1998). Predicting intentions to engage in casual sex. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 502–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Holman, A., & Sillars, A. (2012). Talk about “hooking up”: The influence of college student social networks on nonrelationship sex. Health Communication, 27, 205–216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Honaker, J., King, G., & Blackwell, M. (2011). Amelia II: A program for missing data. Journal of Statistical Software, 45, 1–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jessor, R. (1991). Risk behavior in adolescence: A psychosocial framework for understanding and action. Journal of Adolescent Health, 12, 597–605.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Kahn, J. A., Kaplowitz, R. A., Goodman, E., & Emans, S. J. (2002). The association between impulsiveness and sexual risk behaviors in adolescent and young adult women. Journal of Adolescent Health, 30, 229–232.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Kandel, D. B. (1984). Marijuana users in young adulthood. Archives of General Psychiatry, 41, 200–209.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Kiene, S. M., Barta, W. D., Tennen, H., & Armeli, S. (2009). Alcohol, helping young adults to have unprotected sex with casual partners: Findings from a daily diary study of alcohol use and sexual behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44, 73–80.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. LaBrie, J. W., Hummer, J. F., Ghaidarov, T. M., Lac, A., & Kenney, S. R. (2012). Hooking up in the college context: The event-level effects of alcohol use and partner familiarity on hookup behaviors and contentment. Journal of Sex Research. doi:10.1080/00224499.2012.714010.
  47. Lambert, T. A., Kahn, A. S., & Apple, K. J. (2003). Pluralistic ignorance and hooking up. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 129–133.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Lehmiller, J. J., VanderDrift, L. E., & Kelly, J. R. (2012). Sexual communication, satisfaction, and condom use behavior in friends with benefits and romantic partners. Journal of Sex Research. doi:10.1080/00224499.2012.719167.
  49. Leigh, B. C., Vanslyke, J. G., Hoppe, M. J., Rainey, D. T., Morrison, D. M., & Gillmore, M. R. (2008). Drinking and condom use: Results from an event-based daily diary. AIDS and Behavior, 12, 104–112.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Lewis, M. A., Atkins, D. C., Blayney, J. A., Dent, D. V., & Kaysen, D. L. (2012a). What is hooking up? Examining definitions of hooking up in relation to behavior and normative perception. Journal of Sex Research. doi:10.1080/00224499.2012.706333.
  51. Lewis, M. A., Granato, H., Blayney, J. A., Lostutter, T. W., & Kilmer, J. R. (2012b). Predictors of hooking up sexual behaviors and emotional reactions among U.S. college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1219–1229.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Lewis, M. A., Lee, C. M., Patrick, M. E., & Fossos, N. (2007). Gender-specific normative misperceptions of risky sexual behavior and alcohol-related risky sexual behavior. Sex Roles, 57, 81–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Magid, V., MacLean, M. G., & Colder, C. R. (2007). Differentiating between sensation seeking and impulsivity through their mediated relations with alcohol use and problems. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 2046–2061.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Manning, W. D., Giordano, P. C., & Longmore, M. A. (2006). Hooking up: The relationship contexts of “nonrelationship” sex. Journal of Adolescent Research, 21, 459–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McClintock, E. A. (2010). When does race matter? Race, sex, and dating at an elite university. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 45–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mongeau, P. A., Knight, K., Williams, J., Eden, J., & Shaw, C. (2013). Identifying and explicating variation among friends with benefits relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 50, 37–47.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Moss, J. J., Apolonio, F., & Jensen, M. (1971). The premarital dyad during the sixties. Journal of Marriage and Family, 33, 50–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Muthén, B. O., & Muthén, L. K. (2007). Mplus (Version 5) [Computer software]. Los Angeles, CA: Muthén and Muthén.Google Scholar
  59. Olmstead, S. B., Pasley, K., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). Hooking up and penetrative hookups: Correlates that differentiate college men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 573–583.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Ouellette, J. A., & Wood, W. (1998). Habit and intention in everyday life: The multiple processes by which past behavior predicts future behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 54–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Owen, J., & Fincham, F. D. (2011). Young adults’ emotional reactions after hooking up encounters. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 321–330.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Owen, J., Fincham, F. D., & Moore, J. (2011). Short-term prospective study of hooking up among college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 331–341.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Owen, J. J., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2010). “Hooking up” among college students: Demographic and psychosocial correlates. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 653–663.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Paul, E. L. (2006). Beer goggles, catching feelings, and the walk of shame: The myths and realities of the hookup experience. In D. C. Kirkpatrick, S. Duck, & M. K. Foley (Eds.), Relating difficulty: The process of constructing and managing difficult interaction (pp. 141–160). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  65. Paul, E. L., & Hayes, K. A. (2002). The casualties of “casual” sex: A qualitative exploration of the phenomenology of college students’ hookups. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19, 639–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Paul, E. L., McManus, B., & Hayes, A. (2000). “Hookups”: Characteristics and correlates of college students’ spontaneous and anonymous sexual experiences. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 76–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Penhollow, T., Young, M., & Bailey, W. (2007). Relationship between religiosity and “hooking up” behavior. American Journal of Health Education, 38, 338–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Plante, R. F. (2006). Sexualities in context: A social perspective. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  69. Reiber, C., & Garcia, J. R. (2010). Hooking up: Gender differences, evolution, and pluralistic ignorance. Evolutionary Psychology, 8, 390–404.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Rimal, R. N., & Real, K. (2005). How behaviors are influenced by perceived norms: A test of the theory of normative social behavior. Communication Research, 32, 389–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Rubin, D. B. (1996). Multiple imputation after 18+ years. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 91, 473–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Schafer, J. (1997). Analysis of incomplete multivariate data. New York: Chapman and Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Schafer, J. L. (1999). Multiple imputation: A primer. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 8, 3–15.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Schalling, D. (1978). Psychopathy-related personality variables and the psychophysiology of socialization. In R. D. Hare & D. Schalling (Eds.), Psychopathic behavior: Approaches to research (pp. 85–105). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  76. Spitzer, R. L., Kroenke, K., & Williams, J. B. W. (1999). Validation and utility of a self-report version of PRIME-MD: The PHQ primary care study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 282, 1737–1744.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Steinberg, L., Lamborn, S., Dornbusch, S., & Darling, N. (1992). Impact of parenting practices on adolescent achievement: Authoritative parenting, school involvement, encouragement to succeed. Child Development, 63, 1266–1281.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Stepp, L. S. (2007). Unhooked: How young women pursue sex, delay love, and lose at both. New York: Riverhead Books.Google Scholar
  79. Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93, 119–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Stinson, R. D. (2010). Hooking up in young adulthood: A review of factors influencing the sexual behavior of college students. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 24, 98–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Testa, M., Hoffman, J. H., & Livingston, J. A. (2010). Alcohol and sexual risk behaviors as mediators of the sexual victimization-revictimization relationship. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 249–259.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  82. Tolman, D. L., & McClelland, S. I. (2011). Normative sexuality development in adolescence: A decade in review, 2000–2009. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 242–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Vander Ven, T., & Beck, J. (2009). Getting drunk and hooking up: An exploratory study of the relationship between alcohol intoxication and casual coupling in a university sample. Sociological Spectrum, 29, 626–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Weaver, S. J., & Herold, E. S. (2000). Casual sex and women: Measurement and motivational issues. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 12, 23–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Webb, T. L., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavior change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 249–268.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. Weinhardt, L. S., Forsyth, A. D., Carey, M. P., Jaworski, B. C., & Durant, L. E. (1998). Reliability and validity of self-report measures of HIV-related sexual behavior: Progress since 1990 and recommendations for research and practice. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 155–180.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robyn L. Fielder
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jennifer L. Walsh
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kate B. Carey
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Michael P. Carey
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Health and Behavior and Department of PsychologySyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Centers for Behavioral and Preventive MedicineThe Miriam HospitalProvidenceUSA
  4. 4.Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Program in Public HealthBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  5. 5.Center for Alcohol and Addiction StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations