Hooking Up and Emerging Adults’ Relationship Attitudes and Expectations
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.
KeywordsCasual 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.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Arnett, J. J. (2004). Emerging adulthood: The winding road through the late teens and twenties. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bedard, P. (2014). Census: Marriage rate at 93-year low, even including same-sex couples. Washington, DC: Washington Examiner.Google Scholar
- Bogle, K. A. (2008). Hooking up: Sex, dating, and relationships on campus. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Carroll, J.S., Badger, S., Willoughby, B., Nelson, L. J., Madsen, S. D., & McNamara Barry, C. (2009). Ready or not? Criteria for marriage readiness among for emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24, 349–375. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558409334253. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558407299697.
- Cherlin, A. J. (2009). The marriage-go-round. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Cuba, J. (2013). Hook up culture is ruining our marriage prospects. Pipe Dream. Retrieved from http://www.bupipedream.com/opinion/23751/hook-up-culture-is-ruining-our-generation8217s-marriage-prospects/. Accessed 31 July 2017.
- Glenn, N., & Marquardt, E. (2001). Hooking up, hanging out, and hoping for Mr. right: College women on dating and mating today. New York: Institute for American Values.Google Scholar
- Hymowitz, K. S., Carroll, J. S., Wilcox, W. B., & Kaye, K. (2013). Knot yet: The benefits and costs of delayed marriage in America. National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.Google Scholar
- Lundberg, S., & Pollak, R. A. (2014). Cohabitation and the uneven retreat from marriage in the United States, 1950–2010. In L. P. Boustan, C. Frydman, & R. A. Margo (Eds.), Human capital in history: The American record (pp. 241–272). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- McNamara Barry, C. M., Madsen, S. D., Nelson, L. J., Carroll, J. S., & Badger, S. (2009). Friendship and romantic relationship qualities in emerging adulthood: Differential associations with identity development and achieved adulthood criteria. Journal of Adult Development, 16(4), 209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sales, N. J. (2015, August 31). Tinder and the dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/08/Tinder-hook-up-culture-end-of-dating. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
- Scott, M. E., Schelar, E., Manlove, J., & Cui, C. (2009). Young adult attitudes about relationships and marriage: Times may have changed, but expectations remain high. Child Trends, 30, 1–8.Google Scholar
- Settersten, R. A., Ottusch, T. M., & Schneider, B. (2015). Becoming adult: Meanings of markers to adulthood. Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 26, 667–692.Google Scholar
- Stepp, L. S. (2007). Unhooked: How young women pursue sex, delay love, and lose at both. New York: Riverhead.Google Scholar
- Vespa, J. (2017). The changing economics and demographics of young adulthood: 1975–2016. Current population reports, 20-579.Google Scholar
- Wang, W., & Parker, K. C. (2014). Record share of Americans have never married: As values, economics and gender patterns change. Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends Project.Google Scholar
- Whitehead, B. D., & Popenoe, D. (2007). The state of our unions: The social health of marriage in America. The National Marriage Project. Retrieved from http://www.stateofourunions.org/pdfs/SOOU2007.pdf. Accessed 28 July 2017.