Study Shows Hooking Up in College Isn’t More Common Than Decades Past

C. Price
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The image that many parents have about rampant sexual activity on college campuses may not be an entirely accurate one.

New research suggests today’s college students aren’t engaging in more sex and aren’t more open to the idea of sex before marriage than those from earlier decades.

Researchers gathered their data from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative poll from the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

More than 1,800 young adults with at least one year of college were surveyed.

Between 2002 and 2010, researchers found only one-third of students surveyed indicated having sex with more than one partner in the past year.

That is comparable to the numbers seen when students were asked the same question in polling done between 1988 and 1996.


“One-third of students had sex with

more than one partner in the past year.”

“We’re not living in a new era of no-holds-barred sexuality,” said Martin Monto, a sociology professor from the University of Portland who co-authored the findings.

One change noted was young people are now becoming more sexually active with friends and casual dates.

In the polling done between 1988 and 1996, students were more likely to identify a regular romantic partner as the person they’d been active with.

The current findings have most students now identifying a friend or casual date as a partner.

Of those who reported being sexually active, more than 68 percent admitted to having sex with a friend in the past 12 months.

In the earlier survey, only 56 percent named a “friend” as a partner.

Monto said some language did vary between the two reports, including the term “hooking up,” which is becoming more frequently used in scholarly literature.

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