This study used content analysis techniques to explore 221 first-year college women's perceptions of female peers' reasons (i.e., normative perceptions) for hooking up.Data on personal participation in hooking up were also collected.Psychological theories, such as the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1985, 1991) and the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980), provide a framework for better understanding how a woman’s normative hookup perceptions may influence her decisions to hook up.These theories postulate that perceived norms and attitudes are key predictors of intent and participation in potentially risky behavior.The well-established Drinking Motives Questionnaire (Cooper, 1994) was used as a framework for coding positive (enhancement or social) and negative (coping or conformity) normative hookup motivations.Participants most commonly indicated that enhancement reasons motivated peers' hookup behaviors (69.7%).In the current study, we sought to explore students’ perceptions of peers’ reasons for hooking up.Prior research has relied primarily on forced-choice self-report methods for investigating hooking up.
Then, using content analysis techniques, the open-ended responses were coded and allowed us to explore frequencies in categories of motives as well as associations between normative beliefs and participants’ personal hookup behavior.
Although less is known of women’s hookup-specific behaviors across this transitional period, given the salience of hooking up in college culture (Bogle, 2008; England, Shafer, & Fogerty, 2008), the current study sought to examine hooking up among a sample of incoming first-year college women.
Male and female college students hook up at similar rates—prevalence rates range from 56% to 84% (England et al., 2008; Gute & Eshbaugh, 2008; Paul & Hayes, 2002; Paul et al., 2000).
Participants most commonly indicated that enhancement reasons motivated peers’ hookup behaviors (69.7%).
Furthermore, women who had hooked up since matriculating into college (61.5%, College entrance marks a unique developmental stage of autonomy and self-exploration for adolescents and young adults.
Hooking up denotes sexual behavior, ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse, between nondating partners for whom no obligation or commitment exists.
It is important to note that hooking up and casual sex are not mutually exclusive behaviors; in fact, approximately one third of hookups involve casual sex (i.e., penetrative sex; La Brie, Hummer, Ghaidarov, Lac, & Kenney, 2012; Paul, Mc Manus, & Hayes, 2000).
These methods, though readily quantified, may miss important information about women’s thinking.
In the current study, participants’ views about hooking up motives were assessed using an open-ended question format.
Moreover, college women are susceptible to feelings of disappointment, shame, confusion, and depressive symptomatology in the aftermath of hookups (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008; Grello, Welsh, & Harper, 2006; Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003; Owen, Rhoades, Stanley, & Fincham, 2010; Paul & Hayes, 2002), with one third to half of college women reporting regret or negative reactions to hookups (La Brie et al., 2012; Owen et al., 2010; Paul & Hayes, 2002).
Discrepancies between women’s positive and negative hookup-related experiences point to the need to gain a better understanding of women’s hookup perceptions and behaviors that, in turn, may inform initiatives aimed at raising awareness and reducing sexual harm among students transitioning to college.