Sexual Inactivity During Young Adulthood Is More Common Among U.S. Millennials and iGen: Age, Period, and Cohort Effects on Having No Sexual Partners After Age 18
- 5.2k Downloads
Examining age, time period, and cohort/generational changes in sexual experience is key to better understanding sociocultural influences on sexuality and relationships. Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s (commonly known as Millennials and iGen) were more likely to report having no sexual partners as adults compared to GenX’ers born in the 1960s and 1970s in the General Social Survey, a nationally representative sample of American adults (N = 26,707). Among those aged 20–24, more than twice as many Millennials born in the 1990s (15 %) had no sexual partners since age 18 compared to GenX’ers born in the 1960s (6 %). Higher rates of sexual inactivity among Millennials and iGen also appeared in analyses using a generalized hierarchical linear modeling technique known as age–period–cohort analysis to control for age and time period effects among adults of all ages. Americans born early in the 20th century also showed elevated rates of adult sexual inactivity. The shift toward higher rates of sexual inactivity among Millennials and iGen’ers was more pronounced among women and absent among Black Americans and those with a college education. Contrary to popular media conceptions of a “hookup generation” more likely to engage in frequent casual sex, a higher percentage of Americans in recent cohorts, particularly Millennials and iGen’ers born in the 1990s, had no sexual partners after age 18.
KeywordsSexual inactivity Virginity Generations Birth cohort differences Millennials iGen
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Jean M. Twenge declares that she has no conflict of interest. Ryne A. Sherman declares that he has no conflict of interest. Brooke E. Wells declares that she has no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
- Arnett, J. J. (2005). Emerging adulthood. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bates, D., Maechler, M., Bolker, B., & Walker, S. (2014). lme4: Linear mixed-effects models using Eigen and S4. R package version 1.1-7. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=lme4. Accessed 5 July 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control. (2016). Trends in the prevalence of sexual behavior and HIV testing. National YTBS: 1991–2015. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.pdf. Accessed 5 July 2016.
- Eaton, D. K., Lowry, R., Brener, N. D., Kann, L., Romero, L., & Wechsler, H. (2011). Trends in human immunodeficiency virus–and sexually transmitted disease–related risk behaviors among US high school students, 1991–2009. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40, 427–433.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Petersen, J. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). A meta-analytic review of research on gender differences in sexuality, 1993–2007. Psychological Bulletin, 136(1), 21–38.Google Scholar
- Pew Research Center. (2014). Millennials in adulthood: Detached from institutions, networked with friends. Retrieved March 7, 2014 from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/.
- Pew Research Center. (2015). More Millennials living with family despite improved job market. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/07/29/more-millennials-living-with-family-despite-improved-job-market/.
- R Core Team. (2014). R: A language and environment for statistical computing [Computer software]. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.Google Scholar
- Regnerus, M., & Uecker, J. (2011). Premarital sex in America: How young Americans meet, mate, and think about marrying. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rudder, C. (2009). Your looks and your inbox. Retrieved November 7, 2009 from http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-looks-and-online-dating/#.
- Rudder, C. (2014). Dataclysm: Who we are (when we think no one’s looking). New York: Random House.Google Scholar
- Sales, N. J. (2015, September). Tinder and the dawn of the “dating apocalypse.” Vanity Fair.Google Scholar
- Smith, T. W., Marsden, P., Hout, M., & Kim, J. (2015). General Social Surveys, 1972–2014 [machine-readable data file]. Chicago: NORC at the University of Chicago [producer]; Storrs, CT: The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut [distributor].Google Scholar
- Stepp, L. S. (2008). Unhooked: How young women pursue sex, delay love, and lose at both. New York: Riverhead Books.Google Scholar
- Strauss, W., & Howe, N. (1991). Generations. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
- Twenge, J. M. (2014). Generation me: Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled–and more miserable than ever before (2nd ed.). New York: Atria Books.Google Scholar
- Twenge, J. M., & Park, H. (2016). Generational differences in the speed of development during adolescence: The decline in independent activities, 1976–2015. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
- Wells, B. E., & Twenge, J. M. (2005). Changes in young people’s sexual behavior and attitudes, 1943–1999: A cross-temporal meta-analysis. Review of General Psychology, 9, 249–261.Google Scholar
- Yang, Y. (2008). Social inequalities in happiness in the United States, 1972 to 2004: An age-period-cohort analysis. American Sociological Review, 73, 204–226.Google Scholar
- Yang Y. & Land K. C. (2013). Age-period-cohort analysis: New models, methods, and empirical applications. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar