Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Joshua R. Novak


Joshua R. Novak


Troy E. Beckert


Elizabeth Fauth


Kay Bradford


Jeffrey Dew


The purpose of this study was to explore relationship between individuals’ characteristics, experiences, personality traits, and thought processes in the contexts of casual sexual behaviors. According the principles of Sexual Script Theory, personality traits and personal thought are creations of cultural beliefs and individual experiences. A sample of 1,142 emerging adults between the ages of 18-24 who had a hooking up experience (i.e., sexual activity outside of romantic relationships).

It was found that the emerging adults in this study could be grouped into three (3) distinct groups based upon their personality traits and their motivations for hooking up. The first group in this study did not have any distinctive traits across the grouping variables. The second group was in an active state of ideological exploration, independent individuals, who were motivated to hook up because they described it as fun and it made them feel good. The final group was committed to their ideological beliefs and consciously thought about decisions they needed to make.

Membership in each group was predicted by demographic variables, hooking up experiences, and relationships with both parents and peers. Individuals who thought hooking up was good experience and were highly attached to their parents and peers were more likely to belong to the second group. Members of the third group were more likely to believe that hooking up was a negative experience and were less likely to be attached to their parents.

Finally, this study explored the mental health factors of stress, anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, and self-esteem as outcomes of hooking up. Both of the comparison groups reported mixed emotional outcomes of hooking up. These findings underscore and support previous research that individuals who hook up report mixed outcomes.