Sexual Behavior and Motives in Emerging Adulthood

Open Access
Espinosa Hernandez, Maria Graciela
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 30, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Eva Sharon Lefkowitz, Dissertation Advisor
  • Eva Sharon Lefkowitz, Committee Chair
  • Anthony Raymond D'augelli, Committee Member
  • Nancy S Landale, Committee Member
  • Eric Loken, Committee Member
  • condom use
  • gender
  • risky sexual behaviors
  • romantic relationships
The current study assessed condom use and sexual decision-making in emerging adulthood. Data was drawn from the Gender & HIV Study, a longitudinal study of college students. Students completed surveys at three occasions during their first and second years of college. At Time 1 (N = 434), participants’ ages ranged from 17.5 to 19.8 years (M = 18.5; SD = 0.4; 52% female).Thirty two percent identified as African American, 29% as Latino American, and 39% as European American. Study 1 examined associations between condom-related beliefs and condom use and whether relationship power and commitment moderated these associations. As predicted, most condom-related beliefs were associated with condom use. Contrary to predictions, neither power nor commitment moderated these associations. Study 2 compared emerging adults’ own reasons to have sex against their perceptions of peers’ motives. As predicted, students considered sexual motives that reflect specific circumstances (e.g., emotional investment with partner) in their own decision-making. In contrast, participants perceived same-sex peers’ decisions to be mostly based on partner trait motives (e.g., physical appearance). Findings suggest that emerging adults perceive others’ decisions as more superficial than their own. Implications for future work in emerging adults’ sexuality are discussed within each paper.