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02-08-2018 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 11/2018

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2018

The Associations between Substance Use, Sexual Behavior, Deviant Behaviors and Adolescents’ Engagement in Sexting: Does Relationship Context Matter?

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 11/2018
Joris Van Ouytsel, Michel Walrave, Yu Lu, Jeff R. Temple, Koen Ponnet


While prior research has identified multiple associations between engagement in sexting and risky behaviors, most existing studies do not take into account the contexts in which sexting occurs. The present study extends prior research by examining whether the associations between adolescents’ sexting behavior and engagement in substance use, sexual behaviors, and deviant behaviors differ depending on the relational context (within or outside of a romantic relationship) in which young people engage in sexting. Results from a survey of 1187 secondary school students (61.3% girls, n = 728) between 16 and 22 years old (M = 17.82 years; SD = 0.88) revealed that sexting with a romantic partner is not a significant marker of engagement in risk behaviors. However, single youth who engage in sexting outside of a romantic relationship are more likely to report substance use, relative to their non-sexting counterparts. These findings underscore the need to use more nuanced measures to investigate sexting and for sexual education initiatives to integrate messages about substance use.

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