Skip to main content

The Effects of Condom Availability on College Women’s Sexual Discounting

Abstract

College students commonly engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as casual sexual encounters and inconsistent condom use. Discounting paradigms that examine how individuals devalue rewards due to their delay or uncertainty have been used to improve our understanding of behavioral problems, including sexual risk. The current study assessed relations between college women’s sexual partners discounting and risky sexual behavior. In this study, college women (N = 42) completed two sexual partners delay discounting tasks that assessed how choices among hypothetical sexual partners changed across a parametric range of delays in two conditions: condom availability and condom unavailability. Participants also completed two sexual partners probability discounting tasks that assessed partner choices across a parametric range of probabilities in condom availability and unavailability conditions. Additionally, participants reported risky sexual behavior on the Sexual Risk Survey (SRS). Participants discounted delayed partners more steeply in the condom availability condition, but those differences were significant only for those women with three or fewer lifetime sexual partners. There were no consistent differences in discounting rate across condom availability conditions for probability discounting. Sexual partners discounting measures correlated with risky sexual behaviors as measured by the SRS, but a greater number of significant relations were observed with the condoms-unavailable delay discounting task. These findings suggest the importance of examining the interaction of inconsistent condom use and multiple partners in examinations of sexual decision-making.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Subjective reward value should decrease as a function of increasing delay; thus, criteria for nonsystematic data, as defined by Johnson and Bickel (2008), included (1) any indifference point greater than the previous by 20% or more of the total reward value or (2) the last indifference point is not less than the first by at 10% or more. All six excluded participants violated the first criterion, and three also violated criterion two.

  2. 2.

    For delay discounting, this equation takes the form: \( V = \frac{A}{{\left( {1 + kD} \right)^{s} }}, \) where V is subjective value of reward, A is total amount of reward (e.g., most-preferred partner), D is delay to reward, k is a fitted parameter expressing discounting rate, and s is a fitted parameter reflecting scaling of delay. Probabilities from the probability discounting tasks were converted to odds against sex with most-preferred partner, and then curves were fit using a variation of this model: \( V = \frac{A}{{\left( {1 + h\varTheta } \right)^{s} }}. \) Here, Θ is odds against and h is a fitted parameter expressing discounting rate.

  3. 3.

    A Bonferroni correction applied to the SRS scales resulted in a new significance values of p < .008. Only the significance of the risky sex acts subscale changed as a result of this correction. Table 1 reports p values for SRS subscales, with those significant after correction indicated with an asterisk. Significance values for individual items are included to identify specific, targetable risk behaviors.

References

  1. Alessi, S. M., & Petry, N. M. (2003). Pathological gambling severity is associated with impulsivity in a delay discounting procedure. Behavioural Processes, 64(3), 345–354. doi:10.1016/S0376-6357(03)00150-5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Andrade, L. F., & Petry, N. M. (2012). Delay and probability discounting in pathological gamblers with and without a history of substance use problems. Psychopharmacology, 219(2), 491–499. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2508-9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Bearak, J. M. (2014). Casual contraception in casual sex: Life-cycle change in undergraduates’ sexual behavior in hookups. Social Forces, 93(2), 483–513. doi:10.1093/sf/sou091.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bechara, A. (2005). Decision making, impulse control and loss of willpower to resist drugs: A neurocognitive perspective. Nature Neuroscience, 8, 1458–1463.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Bickel, W. K., Jarmolowicz, D. P., Mueller, E. T., Gatchalian, K. M., & McClure, S. M. (2012a). Are executive function and impulsivity antipodes? A conceptual reconstruction with special reference to addiction. Psychopharmacology, 221(3), 361–387.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. Bickel, W. K., Jarmolowicz, D. P., Mueller, E. T., Koffarnus, M. N., & Gatchalian, K. M. (2012b). Excessive discounting of delayed reinforcers as a trans-disease process contributing to addiction and other disease-related vulnerabilities: Emerging evidence. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 134(3), 287–297. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2012.02.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bickel, W. K., Johnson, M. W., Koffarnus, M. N., MacKillop, J., & Murphy, J. G. (2014). The behavioral economics of substance use disorders: Reinforcement pathologies and their repair. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 10, 641–677. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032813-153724.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. Bickel, W. K., Landes, R. D., Christensen, D. R., Jackson, L., Jones, B. A., Kurth-Nelson, Z., & Redish, A. D. (2011). Single- and cross-commodity discounting among cocaine addicts: The commodity and its temporal location determine discounting rate. Psychopharmacology, 217(2), 177–187. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2272-x.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. Casey, B. J., Getz, S., & Galvan, A. (2008). The adolescent brain. Developmental Review, 28(1), 62–77. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2007.08.003.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). 10 ways STDs impact women differently from men [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/health-disparities/stds-women-042011.pdf.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Sexually transmitted disease surveillance 2014. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Collado, A., Johnson, P. S., Loya, J. M., Johnson, M. W., & Yi, R. (2016). Discounting of condom-protected sex as a measure of high risk for sexually transmitted infection among college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0836-x.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Dariotis, J. K., & Johnson, M. W. (2015). Sexual discounting among high-risk youth ages 18–24: Implications for sexual and substance use risk behaviors. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 23(1), 49–58. doi:10.1037/a0038399.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. de Wit, H. (2009). Impulsivity as a determinant and consequence of drug use: A review of underlying processes. Addiction Biology, 14(1), 22–31. doi:10.1111/j.1369-1600.2008.00129.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Dehne, K. L., & Riedne, G. (2005). Sexually transmitted infections among adolescents: The need for adequate health services. Geneva: World Health Organization.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Du, W., Green, L., & Myerson, J. (2002). Cross-cultural comparisons of discounting delayed and probabilistic rewards. Psychological Record, 52, 479–492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Evenden, J. L. (1999). Varieties of impulsivity. Psychopharmacology, 146(4), 348–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Fielder, R. L., & Carey, M. P. (2010). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual hookups among first-semester female college students. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 36(4), 346–359. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2010.488118.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  19. French, S. E., & Holland, K. J. (2013). Condom negotiation strategies as a mediator of the relationship between self-efficacy and condom use. Journal of Sex Research, 50(1), 48–59. doi:10.1080/00224499.2011.626907.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Frieden, T. R., Jaffe, H. W., Cono, J., Richards, C. L., & Iademarco, M. F. (2016). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2015. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 65(No. SS-6), 1–174.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Gottlieb, S. L., Newman, L. M., Amin, A., Temmerman, M., & Broutet, N. (2013). Sexually transmitted infections and women’s sexual and reproductive health. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 123(3), 183–184. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2013.09.013.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Green, L., & Myerson, J. (2004). A discounting framework for choice with delayed and probabilistic rewards. Psychological Bulletin, 130(5), 769–792. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.130.5.769.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  23. Heatherton, T. F., & Wagner, D. D. (2011). Cognitive neuroscience of self-regulation failure. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(3), 132–139. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2010.12.005.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  24. Herrmann, E. S., Hand, D. J., Johnson, M. W., Badger, G. J., & Heil, S. H. (2014). Examining delay discounting of condom-protected sex among opioid-dependent women and non-drug-using control women. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 144, 53–60. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.07.026.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Herrmann, E. S., Johnson, P. S., & Johnson, M. W. (2015). Examining delay discounting of condom-protected sex among men who have sex with men using crowdsourcing technology. AIDS and Behavior, 19, 1655–1665. doi:10.1007/s10461-015-1107-x.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  26. Holt, D. D., Green, L., & Myerson, J. (2003). Is discounting impulsive? Evidence from temporal and probability discounting in gambling and non-gambling college students. Behavioural Processes, 64(3), 355–367. doi:10.1016/S0376-6357(03)00141-4.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Jarmolowicz, D. P., Bickel, W. K., & Gatchalian, K. M. (2013). Alcohol-dependent individuals discount sex at higher rates than controls. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 131(3), 320–323. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.12.014.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  28. Jarmolowicz, D. P., Cherry, J. B., Reed, D. D., Bruce, J. M., Crespi, J. M., Lusk, J. L., & Bruce, A. S. (2014a). Robust relation between temporal discounting rates and body mass. Appetite, 78, 63–67. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.013.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. Jarmolowicz, D. P., Landes, R. D., Christensen, D. R., Jones, B. A., Jackson, L., Yi, R., & Bickel, W. K. (2014b). Discounting of money and sex: Effects of commodity and temporal position in stimulant dependent men and women. Addictive Behaviors, 39, 1652–1657. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.04.026.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  30. Jarmolowicz, D. P., Lemley, S. M., Asmussen, L. L., & Reed, D. D. (2015). Mr. Right versus Mr. Right Now: A discounting-based approach to promiscuity. Behavioural Processes, 115, 117–122. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2015.03.005.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Jarmolowicz, D. P., Lemley, S. M., Mateos, A., & Sofis, M. J. (2016). A multiple-stimulus-without-replacement assessment for sexual partners: Purchase Task validation. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 49, 723–729. doi:10.1002/jaba.313.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Jentsch, J. D., & Taylor, J. R. (1999). Impulsivity resulting from frontostriatal dysfunction in drug abuse: Implications for the control of behavior by reward-related stimuli. Psychopharmacology, 146, 373–390.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. Joffe, G. P., Foxman, B., Schmidt, A. J., Farris, K. B., Carter, R. J., Neumann, S., … Walters, A. M. (1992). Multiple partners and partner choice as risk factors for sexually transmitted disease among female college students. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 19(5), 272–278.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Johnson, M. W., & Bickel, W. K. (2008). An algorithm for identifying nonsystematic delay-discounting data. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 16(3), 264–274. doi:10.1037/1064-1297.16.3.264.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  35. Johnson, M. W., & Bruner, N. R. (2012). The sexual discounting task: HIV risk behavior and the discounting of delayed sexual rewards in cocaine dependence. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 123, 15–21. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2011.09.032.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Johnson, M. W., & Bruner, N. R. (2013). Test–retest reliability and gender differences in the sexual discounting task among cocaine-dependent individuals. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 21(4), 277–286. doi:10.1037/a0033071.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Johnson, M. W., Johnson, P. S., Herrmann, E. S., & Sweeny, M. M. (2015). Delay and probability discounting of sexual and monetary outcomes in individuals with cocaine use disorders and matched controls. PLoS ONE, 10(5), e0128641. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128641.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  38. Johnson, P. S., Sweeney, M. M., Herrmann, E. S., & Johnson, M. W. (2016). Alcohol increases delay and probability discounting of condom-protected sex: A novel vector for alcohol-related HIV transmission. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 40(6), 1339–1350. doi:10.1111/acer.13079.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  39. Kelley, S. S., Borawski, E. A., Flocke, S. A., & Keen, K. J. (2003). The role of sequential and concurrent sexual relationships in the risk of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32(4), 296–305.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Kirby, K. N., Petry, N. M., & Bickel, W. K. (1999). Heroin addicts have higher discount rates for delayed rewards than non-drug using controls. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 128(1), 78–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Koffarnus, M. K., Johnson, M. W., Thompson-Lake, D. G. Y., Wesley, M. J., Lohrenz, T., Montague, P. R., & Bickel, W. K. (2016). Cocaine-dependent adults and recreational cocaine users are more likely than controls to choose immediate unsafe sex over delayed safer sex. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 24(2), 297–304. doi:10.1037/pha0000080.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  42. Lawyer, S. R. (2008). Probability and delay discounting of erotic stimuli. Behavioural Processes, 79(1), 36–42. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2008.04.009.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lawyer, S. R., & Schoepflin, F. J. (2013). Predicting domain-specific outcomes using delay and probability discounting for sexual versus monetary outcomes. Behavioural Processes, 96, 71–78. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2013.03.001.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Lawyer, S. R., Williams, S. A., Prihodova, T., Rollins, J. D., & Lester, A. C. (2010). Probability and delay discounting of hypothetical sexual outcomes. Behavioural Processes, 84(3), 687–692. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2010.04.002.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  45. Lewis, M. A., Granato, H., Blayney, J. A., Lostutter, T. W., & Kilmer, J. R. (2012). Predictors of hooking up sexual behaviors and emotional reactions among U.S. college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(5), 1212–1229. doi:10.1007/s10508-011-9817-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Mason, T. H., Foster, S. E., Finlinson, H. A., Morrow, K. M., Rosen, R., Vining, S., … Seage, G. R., III. (2003). Perspectives related to the potential use of vaginal microbicides among drug-involved women: Focus groups in three cities in the United States and Puerto Rico. AIDS and Behavior, 7(4), 339–351. doi:10.1023/B:AIBE.0000004726.61630.96.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  47. McCree, D. H., & Rompalo, A. M. (2007). Biological and behavioral risk factors associated with STDs/HIV in women: Implications for behavioral interventions. In S. O. Aral & J. M. Douglas (Eds.), Behavioral interventions for prevention and control of sexually transmitted diseases (pp. 310–324). Boston, MA: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  48. Myerson, J., & Green, L. (1995). Discounting of delayed rewards: Models of individual choice. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 64(3), 263–276.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  49. Myerson, J., Green, L., & Warusawitharana, M. (2001). Area under the curve as a measure of discounting. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 76(2), 235–243. doi:10.1901/jeab.2001.76-235.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  50. Owen, J. J., Fincham, F. D., & Moore, J. (2011). Short-term prospective study of hooking up among college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(2), 331–341. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9697-x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. Owen, J. J., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., & Fincham, F. D. (2010). “Hooking up” among college students: Demographic and psychosocial correlates. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 653–663. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9414-1.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  52. Owusu-Edusei, K. J., Chesson, H. W., Gift, T. L., Tao, G., Mahajan, R., Ocfemia, M. C. B., & Kent, C. K. (2013). The estimated direct medical cost of selected sexually transmitted infections in the United States, 2008. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 40(3), 197–201. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318285c6d2.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Quisenberry, A. J., Eddy, C. R., Patterson, D. L., Franck, C. T., & Bickel, W. K. (2015). Regret expression and social learning increases delay to sexual gratification. PLoS ONE, 10(8), e0135977. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135977.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  54. Rachlin, H., Raineri, A., & Cross, D. (1991). Subjective probability and delay. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 55(2), 233–244.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  55. Rasmussen, E. B., Lawyer, S. R., & Reilly, W. (2010). Percent body fat is related to delay and probability discounting for food in humans. Behavioural Processes, 83(1), 23–30. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2009.09.001.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  56. Reece, M., Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Condom use rates in a national probability sample of males and females ages 14 to 94 in the United States. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(Suppl. 5), 266–276. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02017.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  57. Reynolds, B., Ortengren, A., Richards, J. B., & de Wit, H. (2006). Dimensions of impulsive behavior: Personality and behavioral measures. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 305–315. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2005.03.024.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Reynolds, B., & Schiffbauer, R. (2004). Impulsive choice and workplace safety: A new area of inquiry for research in occupational settings. The Behavior Analyst, 27(2), 239–246.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  59. Richards, J. B., Zhang, L., Mitchell, S. H., & de Wit, H. (1999). Delay or probability discounting in a model of impulsive behavior: Effect of alcohol. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 71(2), 121–143.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  60. Shead, N. W., & Hodgins, D. C. (2009). Probability discounting of gains and losses: Implications for risk attitudes and impulsivity. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 92(1), 1–16. doi:10.1901/jeab.2009.92-1.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  61. Sheeran, P., Abraham, C., & Orbell, S. (1999). Psychosocial correlates of heterosexual condom use: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 125(1), 90–132.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  62. Turchik, J. A., & Garske, J. P. (2009). Measurement of sexual risk taking among college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(6), 936–948. doi:10.1007/s10508-008-9388-z.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  63. Walsh, J. L., Fielder, R. L., Carey, K. B., & Carey, M. P. (2014). Do alcohol and marijuana use decrease the probability of condom use for college women? Journal of Sex Research, 51(2), 145–158. doi:10.1080/00224499.2013.821442.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  64. Warner, L., Stone, K. M., Macaluso, M., Buehler, J. W., & Austin, H. D. (2006). Condom use and risk of gonorrhea and chlamydia: A systematic review of design and measurement factors assessed in epidemiologic studies. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 33, 36–51.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  65. Welsh, D. P., Grello, C. M., & Harper, M. S. (2006). No strings attached: The nature of casual sex in college students. Journal of Sex Research, 43(3), 255–267.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  66. Wilson, M. J., & Vassileva, J. (2016). Neurocognitive and psychiatric dimensions of hot, but not cool, impulsivity predict HIV sexual risk behaviors among drug users in protracted abstinence. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 42(2), 231–241. doi:10.3109/00952990.2015.1121269.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  67. Winer, R. L., Hughes, J. P., Feng, Q., O’Reilly, S., Kiviat, N. B., Holmes, K. K., & Koutsky, L. A. (2006). Condom use and the risk of genital human papillomavirus infection in young women. New England Journal of Medicine, 354, 2645–2654. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa053284.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  68. Wongsomboon, V., & Robles, E. (2017). Devaluation of safe sex by delay or uncertainty: A within-subjects study of mechanisms underlying sexual risk behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 2131–2144. doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0788-1.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shea M. Lemley.

Ethics declarations

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were performed in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lemley, S.M., Jarmolowicz, D.P., Parkhurst, D. et al. The Effects of Condom Availability on College Women’s Sexual Discounting. Arch Sex Behav 47, 551–563 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-1040-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • College women
  • Condoms
  • Sexual risk
  • Delay discounting
  • Probability discounting