Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 619–630 | Cite as

Deviant Cyber-Sexual Activities in Young Adults: Exploring Prevalence and Predictions Using In-Person Sexual Activities and Social Learning Theory

  • Jennifer L. KleinEmail author
  • Danielle Tolson Cooper
Original Paper


Technology has shifted some human interactions to the virtual world. For many young adults, sexual encounters now occur through virtual means, as social media, picture exchanges, sexually explicit Web sites, and video chatting have become popular alternative outlets for these activities to occur. This study used the self-report responses of 812 undergraduate students (282 men and 530 women), collected from an online survey. In addition to using 10 personal demographic control variables, this study used five sexual activity/relationship characteristics (number of sexual partners, relationship status, age to first use pornography, frequency of sexual activity/intercourse, and frequency of masturbation), and the four constructs of Akers’ social learning theory (identified as differential association, differential reinforcement, imitation/modeling, and definitions favorable) to predict a seven-item count of deviant cyber-sexual activities, and two measures of “sexting” behaviors. Gender, self-esteem, sexual orientation, race, and religion were strongly significant predictors in the models, but Akers’ four elements of social learning performed the strongest in predicting the two measures of sexting and the overall deviant cyber-sexual activities scale. This finding indicates that peer associations and peer reinforcements have a strong influence on individuals’ willingness to engage in deviant cyber-sexual activities. This study explored different avenues for young adults’ engagement in sexual deviancy and the results suggest that sexual behaviors performed in-person may not be the strongest predictors of online sexual behavior.


Social learning theory College students Socialization Cyber deviance Sexual activities Deviant behavior 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Criminal Justice, Department of Social SciencesUniversity of Texas at TylerTylerUSA
  2. 2.Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic SciencesUniversity of New HavenWest HavenUSA

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