Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 706–723 | Cite as

Hooking Up and Emerging Adults’ Relationship Attitudes and Expectations

  • Neslihan James-KangalEmail author
  • Eliza M. Weitbrecht
  • Trenel E. Francis
  • Sarah W. Whitton
Original Paper


The dating landscape has changed markedly in recent years, with many emerging adults taking a less committed approach to relationships and sex (e.g., “hooking up”). Delayed marital transitions and declining rates of marriage have led to concerns that the rise of the “hookup culture” is associated with a devaluing of marriage. Previous research on associations between sexual attitudes or overall sexual experience and marital attitudes has produced inconsistent findings and is not representative of modern union formation and sexual norms. Using a sample of 248 emerging adults, we examined associations between engagement in casual sexual behavior (i.e., hooking up) and expectations for future committed relationships and marriage as well as attitudes toward current relationship involvement. Contrary to concerns about the devaluation of marriage, results indicated that level of engagement in hooking up was not associated with expectations for involvement in future committed relationships, including marriage. However, hooking up was associated with less favorable attitudes toward current relationship involvement. These findings suggest that engagement in hooking up is a time-specific behavior that aligns with the self-focused nature of emerging adulthood, rather than indicating a lack of interest in future committed relationships or marriage.


Casual sex Hooking up Sexual behavior Romantic relationships Marital attitudes Emerging adulthood 



This study was funded by the University Research Council at University of Cincinnati and Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Complex Psychological Systems. National Science Foundation (Grant #1263142).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare 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 institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology Department, Mail Center 0376University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care SystemPalo AltoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Applied PsychologyNew York University SteinhardtNew YorkUSA

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