Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 935–943 | Cite as

Diverse Reactions to Hooking Up Among U.S. University Students

Original Paper


Hooking up is defined as a physical encounter between two people who are not romantically committed. This study explored whether there were subgroups of young adults with unique reactions to hooking up (N = 879). Psychosocial predictor variables (gender, depression, loneliness, intoxication level, college adjustment, and hope for a committed relationship) were investigated along with emotional reactions as the outcome variables. Through the use of cluster analysis, four distinct clusters were identified: Happy Hopeful, Content Realist, Used and Confused, and Disappointed and Disengaged. The majority (62 %) of the sample reported mostly positive reactions to hooking up and fell within the Happy Hopeful or Content Realist clusters. Protective factors in these two clusters included hope for a committed relationship, having realistic expectations, and healthy psychological adjustment. The Used and Confused and Disappointed and Disengaged clusters reported the most negative hooking up reactions and consisted of 38 % of the overall sample. These two groups reported increased depression and loneliness symptoms and lower levels of social adjustment as compared to those clusters with more positive reactions.


Hooking up Casual sex Cluster analysis 


  1. Bachtel, M. K. (2013). Do hookups hurt? Exploring college students’ experiences and perceptions. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 58, 41–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, R. W., & Siryk, B. (1984). Measuring adjustment to college. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31, 179–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347–374.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F., & Twenge, J. M. (2002). Cultural suppression of female sexuality. Review of General Psychology, 6, 166–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck, A. T. (1987). Cognitive models of depression. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 1, 5–37.Google Scholar
  6. Beyers, W., & Goossens, L. (2002). Concurrent and predictive validity of the Student Adaptation to College questionnaire in a sample of European female students. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 62, 238–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cole, J. C., Rabin, A. S., Smith, T. L., & Kaufman, A. S. (2004). Development and validation of a Rasch-derived CES-D Short Form. Psychological Assessment, 16, 360–372.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Eisenberg, M. E., Ackard, D. M., Resnick, M. D., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2009). Casual sex and psychological health among young adults: Is having “friends with benefits” emotionally damaging? Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 41, 231–237.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Ernst, J. M., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1998). Lonely hearts: Psychological perspectives on loneliness. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 8, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eshbaugh, E. M., & Gute, G. (2008). Hookups and sexual regret among college women. Journal of Social Psychology, 148, 77–90.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Fielder, R. L., & Carey, M. P. (2010). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual hookups among first-semester female college students. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 36, 346–359.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior: An introduction to theory and research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  13. Garcia, J. R., & Reiber, C. (2008). Hook-up behavior: A biopsychosocial perspective. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2, 192–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glenn, N., & Marquardt, E. (2001). Hooking up, hanging out, and hoping for Mr. Right: College women on dating and mating today. New York: Institute for American Values.Google Scholar
  15. 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
  16. Henry, D. B., Tolan, P. H., & Gorman-Smith, D. (2005). Cluster analysis in family psychology research. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 121–132.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Hill, C. A., & Preston, L. K. (1996). Individual differences in the experience of sexual motivation: Theory and measurement of dispositional sexual motives. Journal of Sex Research, 33, 27–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lewis, M. A., Granato, H., Blayney, J. A., Lostutter, T. W., & Kilmer, J. R. (2012). Predictors of hooking up sexual behaviors and emotional reactions among U.S. college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1219–1229.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. MacDonald, T. K., MacDonald, G., Zanna, M. P., & Fong, G. (2000). Alcohol, sexual arousal, and intentions to use condoms in young men: Applying alcohol myopia theory to risky sexual behavior. Health Psychology, 19, 290–298.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Magidson, J., & Vermunt, J. K. (2001). Latent class factor and cluster models, bi-plots, related graphical display. Sociological Methodology, 31, 223–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Manning, W. D., Giordana, P. C., & Longmore, M. A. (2006). Hooking up: The relationship contexts of “non-relationship” sex. Journal of Adolescent Research, 21, 459–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Owen, J., & Fincham, F. D. (2010). Young adults’ emotional reactions after hooking up encounters. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 321–330.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 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
  24. Owen, J., Rhoades, G., Stanley, S., & Fincham, F. (2010). “Hooking up” among college students: Demographic and psychosocial correlates. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 653–663.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Russell, D. (1996). The UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3): Reliability, validity and factor structure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 66, 20–40.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 249–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Steele, C. M., & Josephs, R. A. (1990). Alcohol myopia: Its prized and dangerous effects. American Psychologist, 45, 921–933.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Townsend, J. M., & Wasserman, T. H. (2011). Sexual hookups among college students: Sex differences in emotional reactions. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1173–1181.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Ven, T. V. S., & 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
  33. Vermunt, J. K., & Magidson, J. (2008). LatentGOLD (4.5) [Computer software]. Belmont, MA: Statistical Innovations, Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johanna Strokoff
    • 1
  • Jesse Owen
    • 1
  • Frank D. Fincham
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Education and Counseling Psychology, Counseling, and College Student Personnel, College of Education and Human DevelopmentUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.College of Human SciencesFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations