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Affect and Sexual Behavior in the Transition to University

Abstract

This research applied a lifespan developmental framework to the study of sexual behavior among late adolescents by examining monthly covariations of penetrative and oral sex with positive and negative affect across the first year of university. Participants were 177 Canadian students who completed baseline questionnaires, followed by six monthly, web-based questionnaires assessing sexual behaviors and affect. Multilevel analyses revealed an average positive relation between oral sex and positive affect. Of six variables, five predicted individual differences in covariation between sex and affect: psychosocial maturity (immature and semi-mature status), attitudes toward sex, prior sexual experience, and living situation. During months when participants reported sexual behavior, psychosocially mature students reported more positive affect than did less mature students; students with more permissive attitudes reported more positive affect than did students with less permissive attitudes; students with no penetrative sexual experience reported more positive affect than students who had penetrative sexual experience; and living away from parents was associated with less negative affect. Implications for further study of sexual behavior from a developmental perspective are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Canada Graduate Scholarship (Master’s) to A. Dalton, and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant to N. Galambos and J. Maggs.

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Correspondence to Andrea L. Dalton.

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Dalton, A.L., Galambos, N.L. Affect and Sexual Behavior in the Transition to University. Arch Sex Behav 38, 675–687 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-008-9401-6

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Keywords

  • Affect
  • Adolescents
  • Sexual behavior
  • Psychosocial maturity
  • Multilevel modeling