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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Research has demonstrated ambiguity about the definition of hooking up among college students. The current research examined whether there were multiple hooking up definitions among college students and how different definitions might be associated with participant's own hooking up behavior and normative perceptions of peer hooking up behavior.

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Open-ended definitions of hooking up were content coded and analyzed using a mixture model to explore discrete definitions of hooking up among college students. Findings indicated three clusters of student definitions of hooking up. Cluster 1 had the broadest definition, referring to sex in general, not specific sexual acts, and to making out. Cluster 2 placed an emphasis on interpersonal and social aspects. Cluster 3 defined hooking up as sex with notable references to specific sexual acts. further indicated that hooking up behavior and normative perceptions differentiated these three groups of definitions.

Clinical implications regarding the inconsistency of student definitions of hooking up and how they may impact negative consequences associated with hooking up are discussed. While the phenomenon of casual sex among college students has been well studied, recent years has shown an increase in publications focusing on sexual hookups on college campuses e.

Hooking up may be a developmentally normative behavior Stinson, that in positive sexual experiences for individuals; however, emerging research on hooking up has demonstrated that it is prevalent and potentially problematic. Moreover, nearly half of men and one third of women report engaging in sexual intercourse during hookups Paul et al. Additional research has shown that hooking up is sometimes associated with emotional, social, and physical consequences, such as experiencing a loss of respect, depression, embarrassment, difficulties in a relationship with a steady partner, unwanted pregnancy, contracting a sexually transmitted infection, and sexual regret in women e.

In spite of this growing base of research, there is still considerable ambiguity about the definition of hooking up among college students. The current research explored whether there were multiple hooking up definitions among college students. Furthermore, this study examined how different definitions might be associated with participant's own hooking up experiences and normative perceptions of peer hooking up behavior.

While recent research has shown that college students who hookup can sometimes experience a variety of negative consequences e. Although there are various definitions used in the hooking up literature, generally researchers agree that hooking up involves casual sexual behaviors ranging from kissing to intercourse with a partner in which there is no current relationship commitment and no expected future relationship commitment.

However, qualitative research has shown that key aspects of how college students define hooking up are not consistent e. In particular, college students differ greatly in their use of the term when referring to the sexual behaviors that occurred during the hookup.

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Additional qualitative research conducted by Paul and Hayes examined student descriptions of their typical hookup as well as their best and worst hookup experience. For this study, students responded to a series of questions e. Furthermore, no ificant sex differences were found. Although the authors did not find high variability in the typical hookup experience, they prompted students with a specific series of questions. The semi-structured interviewing format used by Paul and Hayes may have constrained the responses that students gave in important ways. Hence, it may be that student definitions of hooking up may indeed be quite variable, as prior research suggests i.

While some qualitative research has documented the variability of the use of the term hooking up among college students e. Specifically, how do college students determine their own definition of hooking up — i. The decision to engage in a health or risk behavior is often made within the context of how much others engage or do not engage in the health or risk behavior. According to social learning theory Bandura, ; and later extended to social cognitive theory Bandura,people's acquisition and maintenance of behaviors can occur, in part, through observation of others or by communication with others.

Vicarious learning e. research has shown that descriptive normative perceptions for sexual behavior i. However, studies examining descriptive normative perceptions specific to hooking up have documented inconsistent findings. While research has shown how normative perceptions relate to engaging in sexual behavior Lewis et al.

Understanding how college students define hooking up can not only inform the development and evaluation of preventative interventions aimed to reduce risky sexual behavior among college students, it can also help inform how we conduct research in this area.

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Clarifying definitions will help ensure that research on hooking up is studying the same behavioral phenomena. Furthermore, examining definitions of hooking up in relation to normative perceptions and behavior may provide important information as to how these definitions are determined, either from personal hooking up experiences or from normative perceptions.

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The purpose of the present research was to examine student definitions of hooking up in an open-ended format to see how students generally defined the behavior s. We wanted to explore whether there was evidence for multiple definitions of hooking up, which would imply ambiguity overall about what is meant by the term. A second aim of the present research was to examine whether differing definitions of hooking up might be related to one's own experience or perceptions of hooking up behavior among peers.

Based on research that has shown variation in student definitions of hooking up, we expected multiple clusters of hooking up definitions. Finally, we expected hooking up behavior and normative perceptions to differentiate definition clusters. Participant names and contact information were acquired from the University's Registrar Office for those students who were registered for Fall Quarter. A total of 1, Recruitment rates for this study were comparable to other large scale studies in the college student population e. Descriptive characteristics of study participants are presented in Table 1.

Ethnicity of the sample was A small proportion of the sample identified as Hispanic 5. Ethnicity of the study sample was comparable to the ethnicity of the undergraduate population for the campus. The mean age for participants was The majority of students All procedures were approved by the university's institutional review board. Furthermore, a Federal Certificate of Confidentiality was obtained for this research. After providing consent online, students completed a minute Web-based screening survey for a larger study on sexual behavior and alcohol use. Please tell us in your own words what hooking up means to you.

Under the instructions, participants were presented a space to type in their definitions. After students provided their own definition of hooking up, the common definition used in hooking up research was provided for them for all remaining hooking up items.

Participants reported their typical hooking up behaviors. Participants reported their normative perceptions for the typical same-sex student's typical hooking up behaviors. The goal in coding the open-ended definitions was to identify distinct content via a set of binary codes i. Codes were not mutually exclusive, and in theory, any given definition could have all codes present in its content or none. A tentative list of codes was developed by the first, second, and fifth authors based on our research questions and hypotheses. Based on these initial reviews and on a discussion process between the first author and the two coders, we developed a final coding book by condensing similar or redundant codes and using a system of open codes that incorporated new themes as they emerged from the test.

The two coders then coded the remaining responses. Each discrepancy between the two coders was discussed among the team until each discrepancy was adjudicated. The inter-rater reliability of the coding system for the first two coders and the third coder was assessed using Cohen's kappa scores Cohen, Descriptions and kappas for each theme are presented in Table 2.

The average kappa score was 0. As a rule of thumb values of Kappa from 0. Finally, every discrepancy among the coding team was adjudicated, resulting in a final data set. There were two phases to the data analyses. First, we were interested to know whether the qualitative coding described above might indicate the presence of discrete, underlying definitions of hooking up. That is, given the open-ended responses and coding, do definitions cluster into two or more groups? Mixture models are one approach to clustering data and assume that the observed data may be a mixture of several latent classes.

The coding data can be represented as a matrix of binary data, in which columns define codes coded as 0 or 1 and the rows define individuals. The binomial mixture model examined whether there were common patterns across rows i. One of the challenges of any clustering procedure is deciding how many clusters to retain. In the present analyses, the Bayesian information criterion BIC; Raftery, was used, which penalizes models by their complexity and is a common criterion for choosing the of latent groups in mixture models.

In the second phase of analysis, the clusters were treated as a between-subject grouping variable in a series of models for either hooking up behavior or perceptions of hooking up behavior. All analyses were done using R v2. A series of binomial mixture models were fit to the hooking up definition coding data, for latent classes of one i. For each potential class five separate models were run varying starting parameters, and the average BIC was used in determining the appropriate model. Across the five models the BIC statistics were The model assuming three latent definitions of hooking up had the lowest BIC — almost BIC points below the model assuming no latent classes, and 13 points below the model assuming four latent classes.

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Means of coding items for each of the three latent classes of hooking up definitions are shown in Figure 1 and reveal several patterns of the three latent definitions. All three latent definitions have a majority of respondents referring to sex at least generally e. Moreover, this group appears to include little else beyond sex in their definition of hooking up.

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Finally, although not a focus of the present study, consistent with research Owen et al. The next set of analyses examined how cluster membership was associated with participant's behavior with hooking up and normative perceptions of hooking up. Table 3 reports means and standard deviations of various hooking up behaviors by cluster membership, and reports an omnibus test of differences using the Kruskal-Wallis test, given the non-normal distributions of the outcomes.

As seen in the table, for all outcomes except anal sex, there are ificant differences in hooking up behavior based on hooking up definition groups.

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