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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Sexting has stirred debate over its legality and safety, but few researchers have documented the relationship between sexting and health.
We describe the sexting behavior of young adults in the United States, and examine its association with sexual behavior and psychological well-being. We examined participant sexting behavior using 4 of sexting: 1 Non-Sexters, 2 Receivers, 3 Senders, and 4 Two-way Sexters. We then assessed the relationships between sexting and sociodemographic characteristics, sexual behavior and psychological well-being.
Males were more likely to be Receivers than females. Sexually active respondents were more likely to be Two-way Sexters than non-sexually active respondents. Among participants who were sexually active in the past 30 days, we found no differences across sexting groups in of sexual partners, or of unprotected sex partners in the past 30 days. We also found no relationship between sexting and psychological well-being.
Our suggest that sexting is not related to sexual risk behavior or psychological well-being.
We discuss the findings of this study and propose directions for further research on sexting. Sexting, which describes sharing sexually suggestive photos or messages through cell phones and other mobile media [ 1 ], is rapidly becoming sexters phone numbers of the dating process [ 2 ]. Recently, this behavior has stirred substantial concern over its legality and safety [ 34 ]. While existing surveys document the prevalence among young adults YAs and demographic characteristics associated with sexting, there is little systematic research on the relationship between sexting and health behaviors commonly assumed to be linked to sexting e.
It is critical to understand this relationship to determine if and how public health resources should be devoted to sexting. Sincecross sectional studies have examined the prevalence of sexting behavior among teens and YAs [ 25 — 7 ]. Frequent users of cell phones and social networking technology, as well as single adults reported sexting more than low technology users or married adults respectively [ 7 ].
They also found that sexually active youth were twice as likely to share naked photos compared to their non-sexually active peers [ 5 ]. While informative, these findings do not elucidate if sexting is related to self-reported sexual risk behaviors. Researchers have proposed three perspectives regarding the relationship between sexting and sexual behavior: 1 sexting may lead to risky sexual behaviors such as early sexual initiation and less contraceptive use [ 8 ], 2 sexting may be a safer sex behavior if it is used in lieu of physical contact [ 2 ], or 3 sexting may reflect a new medium for the longstanding practice of photo sharing in romantic and sexual relationships and have no association with safer or riskier sex behaviors [ 1 ].
It is vital to understand how sexting is related to sexual behaviors as it could be promoted as a safer sex behavior or become a focus of intervention to prevent risky sexual behavior. Media reports and scholars have sexters phone numbers proposed a relationship between sexting and psychological well-being [ 9 — 11 ].
People with social anxiety may prefer texting to voice calls as a medium for intimate contact, and may also prefer sexting as a medium for sexual contact [ 412 ]. Other sexters phone numbers and the media raise concern over the psychological consequences of sexting. The spread of sext messages beyond the original recipient and pressure to sext are both common occurrences [ 56 ] and may be related to subsequent psychological distress [ 313 ].
In addition, a of dating violence education programs have included unwanted text and sext messages in their definitions of dating violence [ 1213 ]. To date, researchers have not tested the relationship between sexting and symptoms of psychological well-being directly. The absence of such data is a concerning gap in our understanding given that if sexting is related to adverse mental health, intervention is critical to prevent or mitigate negative outcomes. Our study has three goals. First, we describe the prevalence of sexting in a large national sample of 18—24 year old YAs in the United States.
We break sexting into four : 1 Non-Sexters neither sent nor received a sext2 Senders sent a sext but never received a sext3 Receivers received a sext but never sent a sextand 4 Two-way Sexters both sent sexters phone numbers received a sext. Second, we examine whether participants who engage in different sexting behaviors differ in their sociodemographic characteristics. We discuss the implications of sexting for YAs and suggest directions for both research and practice.
To be eligible for the study, respondents had to be between the ages of 18 and 24, live in the United States and have access to the Internet. The first wave of participants seeds was recruited through an online Facebook advertisement. The remainder of the sample was recruited through referral chains.
The majority of participants identified as heterosexual Each prospective participant logged into the survey portal using a unique identifying UID and completed a short eligibility screener. Eligible participants consented to the study and completed the survey.
On average, the questionnaire took 37 minutes to complete.
Data were protected with a bit SSL encryption and kept on a secure firewalled server at the University of Michigan. Data quality checks were carried out to circumvent duplicate and fraudulent entries [ 1415 ]. Respondents answered two questions regarding their lifetime sexting behavior. Using definitions provided by the Pew Internet and American Life Project [ 7 ], we asked participants if they had ever sexted i. Next, we asked if they had ever received a sext i. We created a lifetime sexting behavior status variable with four : 1 Non-Sexters, 2 Senders, 3 Receivers, 4 Two-way sexters.
Sexually-active youth reported the of male and female partners they had in the past 30 days, respectively. We calculated the total of sexual partners in past 30 days by adding the reported for male and female partners. Participants also reported the of unprotected sex partners in the past 30 days for vaginal sex and for anal sex. We used these proportions as indicators of sexual risk behavior. We selected this short form in order to limit the of survey items and reduce participant burden.
Items e. Mean depression score was calculated by reverse scoring positively worded items e. Anxiety symptoms were measured using the anxiety subscale of the Brief Symptom Inventory [ 18 ]. We assessed self-esteem using the item Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale [ 19 ]. Participants responded to items e. We created a mean composite self-esteem score. We calculated participant age by subtracting their month and year of birth from the date of study participation.
We asked participants how many YAs they had contact with in the past 3 months, and of those who they were in contact with, how many they usually communicated with by phone or text. Participants recruited via RDS are linked by their recruitment chains sexters phone numbers are therefore correlated.
We computed a statistical weight RDS2 to correct for clustering that resulted from the network-referral procedures [ 20 ]. In subsequent analyses, we weighted the RDS2 weight [ 20 ]. Data were analyzed in three steps. First, we used crosstabs to examine the intersection between sending and receiving a sext message and to create sexting status.
Second, we analyzed bivariate relationships between sexting status and variables of interest. For continuous variables, we used analysis of variance Sexters phone numbers with post hoc Scheffe tests to compare mean scores across sexting groups. We tested the association between sexting and categorical variables using Chi-Square tests and odds ratios. Multivariate and bivariate were the same for all predictors.
Of the respondents in the weighted sample, A greater percentage of males Only participants with full sexting data were included in analyses; demographic characteristics are displayed in Table 1. from bivariate analyses are presented in Table 3. When we looked at only those respondents who reported being sexually active in the past 30 days, we found no association between sexting behavior and of partners, proportion of unprotected vaginal sex or proportion of unprotected anal sex partners. Our indicate that sexting is a prevalent behavior among YAs and show rates of sending and sexters phone numbers sexts are slightly higher than other recent findings [ 7 ].
These differences may be attributable to age differences in the samples. It is also possible that sexting is increasing due to technological advances. Longitudinal data are needed for us to know if sexting is increasing among YAs. Our also suggest that sexting is most often a reciprocal behavior. Given findings that most young men and women report sharing sexts within a dating relationship [ 622 ], it is likely that our findings reflect sexting between romantic partners.
Similar to Lenhart [ 7 ], we found that males are more likely than females to receive a sext without sending one. These could be attributed in part to males receiving photos that were originally intended for someone else. When males receive forwarded sexts, they may not be a part of a reciprocal sexting relationship and therefore not sending content in return.
This finding may also reflect sexual objectification [ 23 ] being enacted through technology. Qualitative research may be warranted to obtain more in-depth information about this pattern of sexting behavior. Our findings on the relationship between sexting and sexual behavior support the perspective that sexting is a part of YAs sexual relationships but is not necessarily correlated with riskier or safer behavior. Although some teens report sexting as a substitute for physical contact [ 2 ], this use for sexting may not be common among YAs.
Consistent with other studies [ 5 ], we found that YAs who are sexually sexters phone numbers are more likely to sext than those who are not sexually active. Two explanations of this finding are possible: 1 when sexting is used to flirt with potential partners, it may precede or initiate sexual relationships [ 6 ], or 2 sexually active YAs will engage in a range of sexual behavior, including sexting.
Additional research is needed on sexting and sexual relationships as our cross sectional data do not address this debate. While sexting is correlated with lifetime and day sexual activity, our suggest that this does not necessarily translate into risky behavior. Although some researchers argue that exposure to sexual images in traditional media e. Researchers have proposed that mental health issues may be related to sexting [ 491213 ]. Our findings suggest that sexting is not associated with depression, anxiety or self-esteem.
For our sample, YAs who sexted and those who did not sext reported similar outcomes for these mental health indicators. It is possible however, that sexting could be problematic under some conditions. Scholars argue that the lack of control after a sext is sent or pressure by sexual partners to sext may contribute to psychological distress and mental health concerns [ 235 ].
Media reports have noted that when a sext spre to an unintended audience it may create psychological distress and suicide intentions [ 1011 ]. Given that our data do not address these specific situations, future research exploring pressure to sext or viral sexts will help identify when sexting may result in deleterious mental health outcomes. First, this study was cross sectional and does not establish causal relationships between sexting and either sexual health or mental health.
Nevertheless, our findings suggest that longitudinal sexters phone numbers is warranted. Second, due to our sampling methods, some racial and educational groups were underrepresented and our may not be generalizable to the Sexters phone numbers population as a whole. Yet, very few national studies of sexting and health correlates have been conducted and our findings offer a more in-depth examination of this behavior than other studies on a national scale. Third, we were not able to include Senders in our analysis. While we were unable to examine if Senders were different from their counterparts, our add to our understanding of this behavior by revealing that sending a sext without receiving in return may not be a common practice for YAs.
Our study introduces sexting behavior Non-Sexters, Receivers, Senders and Two-way Sexters as a way to conceptualize sexting. We provide an initial effort to examine sexting and its relationship with sexual risk behavior and psychological well-being, but further research is needed to provide a more in-depth understanding of this behavior. Qualitative research that examines relationship contexts and motivation for sexting has been published for the teen population [ 2 ] and is also needed for YAs. A richer understanding of who sexts are sent to, or received from, and why YAs sext may help explain gender differences in sexting and add insight to the relationship between sexting and sexual behavior.
We did not find a relationship between sexting and depression, anxiety or self-esteem, but further research is needed to examine the association between sexting and mental health.
As mentioned above, pressure to sext and viral sexts may present mental health risks but to date there are no studies that address these specific situations.Sexters phone numbers
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