Miriam Hospital researchers identify predictors of hookup behaviors
among first-year college women
Casual, no-strings sexual encounters are increasingly common on college
campuses, but are some students more likely than others to “hook up”? A
new study by researchers with The
Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine,
published online by the Archives of Sexual Behavior, suggests
there are certain factors and behaviors associated with sexual hookups,
particularly among first-year college women.
“Given the potential for negative emotional and physical health outcomes
as a result of sexual hookups, including unplanned pregnancy and
depression, it is important to identify the factors that influence
hookup behavior,” said lead author Robyn L. Fielder, M.S., a research
intern at The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive
and her team surveyed 483 incoming first-year female college students
about their risk behaviors, personality traits and social environment.
Specific questions covered the students’ sexual behavior, hookup
attitudes and intentions, self-esteem, religious beliefs, parents’
relationship status, alcohol and marijuana use, smoking, impulsivity and
sensation-seeking behavior. Researchers followed up with the women
monthly for eight months.
“Our findings suggest hooking up during the first year of college is
influenced by pre-college hookups, personality, behavioral intentions,
the social and situational context, family background and substance use
patterns – particularly marijuana use,” said Fielder.
According to Fielder, this is believed to be the first study to explore
marijuana use as a predictor of hooking up, even though previous
research has linked marijuana use to risky sexual behavior and marijuana
has been shown to impair judgment and reduce inhibitions.
But overall, pre-college hookups emerged as the strongest predictor of
hooking up during freshmen year, suggesting early hookup experiences may
provide a personal model for future behavior.
“These findings suggest that women’s hookup behavior during the first
year of college may influence their hookup behavior later in college,”
said Fielder. “That’s why the transition to college is an important time
for health care professionals to provide sexual health information and
resources to help women make informed choices.”
But at the same time, she said it’s also important to consider the array
of individual, social and contextual factors when studying hookup
behavior. “Focusing on any one area of influence fails to capture the
complicated matrix of forces that influence young adults’ relationship
decisions,” Fielder added.
The study was published online on May 9, 2013. Research reported in this
publication was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism under award number R21-AA018257. Study co-authors include
Michael P. Carey, Ph.D., director of The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for
Behavioral and Preventive Medicine; Jennifer Walsh, Ph.D., of The Miriam
Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine; and Kate B.
Carey, Ph.D., of Brown University.
Robyn L. Fielder, M.S., is completing a research placement at The
Miriam Hospital (a member hospital of the Lifespan health system in
Rhode Island) as part of her clinical psychology internship at The
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.