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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies
- Sociology and Political Science
- History and Philosophy of Science