Predictors of Sexual Hookups: A Theory-Based, Prospective Study of First-Year College Women

Abstract

Hooking up, or engaging in sexual interactions outside of committed relationships, has become increasingly common among college students. This study sought to identify predictors of sexual hookup behavior among first-year college women using a prospective longitudinal design. We used problem behavior theory (Jessor, 1991) as an organizing conceptual framework and examined risk and protective factors for hooking up from three domains: personality, behavior, and perceived environment. Participants (N = 483, 67 % White) completed an initial baseline survey that assessed risk and protective factors, and nine monthly follow-up surveys that assessed the number of hookups involving performing oral sex, receiving oral sex, and vaginal sex. Over the course of the school year, 20 % of women engaged in at least one hookup involving receiving oral sex, 25 % engaged in at least one hookup involving performing oral sex, and 25 % engaged in at least one hookup involving vaginal sex. Using two-part modeling with logistic and negative binomial regression, we identified predictors of hooking up. Risk factors for sexual hookups included hookup intentions, impulsivity, sensation-seeking, pre-college hookups, alcohol use, marijuana use, social comparison orientation, and situational triggers for hookups. Protective factors against sexual hookups included subjective religiosity, self-esteem, religious service attendance, and having married parents. Race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, hookup attitudes, depression, cigarette smoking, academic achievement, injunctive norms, parental connectedness, and being in a romantic relationship were not consistent predictors of sexual hookups. Future research on hookups should consider the array of individual and social factors that influence this behavior.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by grant R21-AA018257 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to Michael P. Carey. The authors thank Annelise Sullivan for her assistance with data collection.

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Correspondence to Robyn L. Fielder.

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Fielder, R.L., Walsh, J.L., Carey, K.B. et al. Predictors of Sexual Hookups: A Theory-Based, Prospective Study of First-Year College Women. Arch Sex Behav 42, 1425–1441 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-013-0106-0

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Keywords

  • Hooking up
  • Casual sex
  • Sexual behavior
  • College students
  • Women