Researchers have identified several factors associated with an increase in hookups — casual, no-strings-attached sex — among women in their first year of college.
“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 Robyn L. Fielder, M.S., a research intern at The Miriam Hospital’s Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Providence, R.I.
Fielder 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.
What the researchers found is that pre-college hookups emerged as the strongest predictor of hooking up during freshmen year, suggesting early experiences may provide a 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.”
It’s also important to consider the array of individual, social and contextual factors when studying hookup behavior, she noted.
“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 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.