Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Epidemiology (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Seth J. Schwartz

Second Committee Member

Guillermo Prado

Third Committee Member

Daniel Feaster

Fourth Committee Member

Marilyn Montgomery


Emerging adults engage in casual sex at higher rates than other any other age group. In addition, they engage in casual sex at higher rates than similarly aged individuals from decades earlier. It is, therefore, important to gain a better understanding of casual sex in this age group. The objective of the current study was to examine a model in which mother-adolescent attachments served as a predictor of two distinct types of casual sex: “hookups” and “friends with benefits” in emerging adulthood, both directly, and indirectly through relationship expectations. The study also sought to examine sexually transmitted infections as a consequence of the two types of casual sex. Prospective longitudinal analysis was used to accomplish the study goals, using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Structural equation modeling revealed that secure mother-adolescent attachment reduced the likelihood of engaging in “friends with benefits” in emerging adulthood indirectly through increasing sexualized relationship expectations. The study also showed that engaging in “friends with benefits” encounters increased the likelihood of a diagnosis of at least one sexually transmitted infection in emerging adulthood. The study supports public health interventions that promote sexual responsibility in casual sex or abstinence from casual sex. In addition, the study suggests that improving mother-adolescent attachments and relationship expectations may be a mechanism through which casual sex in emerging adulthood could be reduced. Implications for future research are discussed.


Emerging Adulthood; casual sex; parental attachments; sexually transmitted infections