Risky business: Is there an association between casual sex and mental health among emerging adults?

Melina M. Bersamin, Byron L. Zamboanga, Seth J. Schwartz, M. Brent Donnellan, Monika Hudson, Robert S. Weisskirch, Su Yeong Kim, V. Bede Agocha, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, S. Jean Caraway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations

Abstract

A multiethnic sample of single, heterosexual, emerging-adult college students (N = 3,907) ages 18 to 25, from 30 institutions across the United States, participated in a study about identity, culture, psychological well-being, and risky behaviors. Given ongoing debates about the connection between casual sex and psychological adjustment, in the current study we assessed the cross-sectional association of participation in casual sex with psychological well-being and distress. A greater proportion of men (18.6%) compared to women (7.4%) reported having had casual sex in the month prior to assessment. Structural equation modeling indicated that casual sex was negatively associated with well-being (ß = .20, p < .001) and positively associated with psychological distress (ß = .16, p < .001). Gender did not moderate these associations. For emerging-adult college students, engaging in casual sex may elevate risk for negative psychological outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-51
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Volume51
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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