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Qual Health Res. 2009 Sep;19(9):1196-209. doi: 10.1177/1049732309344206.

Hooking up and sexual risk taking among college students: a health belief model perspective.

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  • 1Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA.


"Hooking up" with friends, strangers, and acquaintances is a popular way for college students to experience sexual intimacy without investing in relationships. Because hooking up often occurs in situations in which prophylactics against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are not available or in which students' judgment is impaired, it can involve risky behaviors that compromise student health. As such, in-depth studies of the factors related to sexual risk taking during hookups are needed, to advance preventive research and programming. Based on semistructured interviews with 71 college students about their hooking-up experiences, the findings of this study demonstrate that the Health Belief Model can serve as a useful framework for understanding sexual risk taking during hooking up, and offers suggestions for sexual risk-prevention programs on college campuses. The results demonstrate why students' assessments of their own and their peers' susceptibility to STIs are often misinformed. The findings also show how situational characteristics, such as spontaneity, undermine students' sexual self-efficacy.

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