Social Psychology

Expectations about alcohol use are linked to an individual’s decision to engage in sexting

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New research published in Computers in Human Behavior has found a link between alcohol use and sexting among college students. The findings suggest that sexual expectations regarding alcohol use can be associated with more frequent sexting.

“I am really interested in how our attitudes influence our expectations of events as well as our behavior. There is quite a bit of support for the association between alcohol use and sexual behavior, so I wanted to take my interest regarding how beliefs influence behavior and expand it to investigate this in the context of alcohol use and sexting,” said study author Autumn Rae Florimbio of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

The researchers surveyed 534 undergraduate students regarding their sexual drive, sexting behaviors, and alcohol use. About half of the students reported sending a sext and two fifths reported requesting one.

The researchers found that alcohol use was positively related to sexting, and this relationship was mediated by their expectations. Students who agreed with statements such as “When drinking alcohol.. I become sexually excited” were more likely to drink alcohol and more likely to report sending sexts.

“Results from our study suggest that individuals who expect that drinking alcohol will result in positive outcomes related to sexual behavior, such as drinking alcohol to enhance their sexual drive, report more frequent use of alcohol and more frequent sexting,” Florimbio told PsyPost.

“This provides support for the idea that our beliefs and expectations may influence our behavior, especially when a positive outcome is expected.”

The study — like all research — includes some caveats.

“There are some limitations to consider, with the first being we conducted this study in college students, so our findings could potentially look different in another sample. Also, we collected data at a single time point and therefore cannot make causal conclusions about the relationships between variables in our study,” Florimbio explained.

“Examining alcohol use, expectancies, and sexting behaviors with multiple time points would help us understand the temporal relationship between these variables. We also did not assess the specific context surrounding individual’s drinking or sexting behaviors, things like where they were drinking, what the occasion was, and the relationship between the people engaging in sexting behaviors.”

“Considering such information and if sexting occurred prior to drinking, while drinking, or in situations unrelated to drinking alcohol would help us better understand the relationship between these variables,” Florimbio added.

The study, “Alcohol-related Sex Expectancies Explain the Relation between Alcohol Use and Sexting among College Students“, was authored by Autumn Rae Florimbio, Meagan J. Brem, Alisa R. Garner, Hannah L. Grigorian, and Gregory L. Stuart.