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An Examination of Self-Esteem and Gender in the Hookup Culture of Emerging Adults: Variations by Context

Molly Grace McLeese, Illinois State University

Imported from ProQuest McLeese_ilstu_0092N_10557.pdf


The present study aimed to develop a better understanding of the hookup culture of emerging adults in various contexts. Hookups are considered sexual encounters outside of a committed relationship that are becoming part of the popular culture among emerging adults (Garcia, Reiber, & Merriwether, 2013). However, most of the previous research conducted on hookups has solely been done with university students. To gain a more complete understanding, this study examined the hookup culture of both university students and community college students in order to examine similarities and differences.

Participants, ages 18-25, were sent an email inviting them to participate in an online survey on relationship experiences. Participants completed a demographic survey and were then asked to define a typical hookup as well as provide information about their most recent hookup experience using the Hookup Scale (Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000), which included type of partner, sexual acts, and frequency. Participants were also asked to provide information about global self-esteem, sexual self-esteem, and motivations for engaging in their last hookup.

Data was collected from 674 university students and 77 community college students. In the overall sample of 751 participants, there were 534 women and 208 men with a mean age of 19.85 (SD = 1.85). Results for defining a hookup indicated that university students were more likely than community college students to define a hookup as occurring with a stranger. University students were also significantly more likely to define a hookup as occurring â??a few timesâ?? (i.e., 2-5 times) and â??oftenâ?? (i.e., 6+ times) with the same partner than community college students. However, university students and community college students shared various similarities regarding their definitions of a typical hookup, in terms of type of partner, frequency, and most common acts.

In terms of actual hookup experiences, 67.2% of the university sample and 58.4% of the community college sample indicated they had a past hookup experience. When asked whom their most recent hookup experience was with, both groups had â??friendâ?? as the most prevalent response. For both groups the average frequency of hookups with their most recent partner was short-term; approximately 75% reported either â??one-time onlyâ?? or â??a few timesâ??. Consistent with their definitions, both groups reported â??kissing, cuddling, and making outâ?? as the most common sexual act and anal intercourse as the least common sexual act experienced in their most recent hookup.

In terms of global and sexual self-esteem, community college and university participants were similar in strength of correlations. Lastly, gender similarities and differences in terms of hookup culture were examined. The present study found that men and women were similar in responses, although their motivations for engaging in a hookup differed. Overall, results concluded that university students and community college students were similar in their responses, both in defining a typical hookup and in their most recent hookup experience. Future research is necessary in determining the similarity and differences of additional contexts such as individuals who do not attend college.