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Adult Attachment and Heterosexual College Women’s Hookup Behaviors: Mediating Effects of Sexual Motives

Abstract

We investigated sexual motives as mediators of the relationships between adult attachment orientations and women’s casual sexual behavior. Female heterosexual undergraduates (N = 221) provided self-report data on multiple attachment orientations underlying attachment styles, sexual motives, and hookup behavior. Proximity-seeking (i.e., turning toward others to share experiences and in times of need) and self-reliance (i.e., preferring not to ask for help or to depend on others) were both associated with number of hookup partners. Sexual motives mediated some of these relationships. Intimacy motives explained how proximity-seeking positively related to hookup behavior, whereas enhancement motives explained how self-reliance negatively related to hookup behavior. These results suggest that attachment orientations associated with both secure and insecure attachment styles predict women’s casual sexual behavior through different sexual motives. These results also suggest that women’s casual sexual encounters do not necessarily reflect insecurity, dysfunction, psychopathology, or maladaptation. To promote healthy hookup behaviors among women, both emotional as well as sexual needs associated with different attachment orientations should be considered.

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Acknowledgement

The authors gratefully acknowledge Laura O’Brien, Nicole Jelonek, Grace Rivera, Genevieve Martin, and Rachel Bowen for their assistance with data collection and management.

Author information

Correspondence to Monica E. Schneider.

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Schneider, M.E., Katz, J. Adult Attachment and Heterosexual College Women’s Hookup Behaviors: Mediating Effects of Sexual Motives. Sex Roles 77, 419–429 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0726-7

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Keywords

  • Attachment
  • Sexual motives
  • Hookups
  • Casual sex
  • Women