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Latent Classes of Sexual Behaviors: Prevalence, Predictors, and Consequences

Abstract

Scholars of adolescent and emerging adult sexuality have recently begun to study how diverse patterns of sexual behaviors contribute to development and well-being. A person-oriented approach to studying sexual behaviors provides a nuanced understanding of sexual repertoires. The goals of this paper were to document patterns of sexual behaviors ranging from kissing to penetrative sex, and to examine how latent classes of behaviors, gender, and partner type (romantic versus nonromantic) predict intra- and interpersonal consequences of sexual behaviors. Latent class analysis of a stratified random sample of US college students revealed four classes of sexual behaviors: Kissing Only, Kissing and Touching, All Behaviors, and Oral and Penetrative Only. Compared to individuals in the All Behaviors class, individuals in the Kissing Only class were less likely to experience a positive or a negative intrapersonal consequence of sexual behaviors. Men were less likely to report a negative intrapersonal consequence than women were. Partner type predicted negative interpersonal consequences for the All Behaviors class. Implications are discussed in terms of normative sexual development, prevention, and sexual and relationship education.

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Correspondence to Rose Wesche.

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Funding

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant R01AA016016 and the National Institute on Drug Abuse grants T32 DA017629, P50 DA10075, and P50 DA039838.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

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

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Wesche, R., Lefkowitz, E.S. & Vasilenko, S.A. Latent Classes of Sexual Behaviors: Prevalence, Predictors, and Consequences. Sex Res Soc Policy 14, 100–111 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-016-0228-y

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Keywords

  • Sexual behaviors
  • Sexual health
  • Casual sex