PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - The Miriam Hospital has released the results of a new study that focuses on the sexual behavior of first-year college students.
Casual, no-strings-attached sexual encounters have become such a trend, researchers were curious if they were replacing traditional romantic relationships.
But researchers with The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine suggests college students are not actually hooking up as frequently as one might think.
According to their study, published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health, romantic relationships are still the most common context for sexual behavior, at least among women in their first year of college.
Researchers report romantic sex with a boyfriend or relationship partner was found to be twice as common as hookup sex in this particular group of students.
"Hooking up" is a loosely defined term characterized by sexual intimacy, ranging from kissing to sexual intercourse, between partners who are not dating or in a romantic relationship and do not expect commitment.
Researchers surveyed 483 first-year female college students about their sexual behavior with hookup and romantic relationship partners during their freshmen year, as well as the summer after.
They focused specifically on sexual behaviors, specifically oral or vaginal sex, that are most likely to have health consequences, such as sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.
Before starting college, one-third of incoming freshmen women reported having at least one hookup, while nearly 60% said they had sex at least once in the context of a romantic relationship.
40% reported sexual hookups during the first year of college, and less than one in five participants had a sexual hookup each month.
However, more than half - 56% - engaged in oral and/or vaginal sex with a boyfriend or romantic partner during the year.
The average number of sexual hookups per month ranged from one to three, suggesting that - for most women - hookups are experimental and relatively infrequent as opposed to a regular pattern of behavior.
Specifically, the highest rate of sexual hookups took place at the beginning of the academic year (October) and the lowest rate was during the summer (June).
Sexual hookups were also more common among Caucasian students than they were among Asian or African-American students.
Researchers say the study's findings could guide university health promotion efforts, including the need for STD and pregnancy prevention, since many studies have shown that condom use among college students is inconsistent and, in fact, decreases over the first year of college.
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