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J Am Coll Health. 2010 Mar-Apr;58(5):481-9. doi: 10.1080/07448481003599112.

College women's sexual decision making: cognitive mediation of alcohol expectancy effects.

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  • 1School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA.



Alcohol has been linked to a variety of risky sexual practices, including inconsistent condom use. Due to the high rates of alcohol consumption among underage college women, greater understanding of the role of alcohol in young women's sexual decision making is warranted.


Female underage (18- to 20-year-old) social drinkers (N = 94) participated in an experiment in which they projected themselves into a written hypothetical sexual situation with a new partner. One half of the situations portrayed alcohol consumption; one half did not involve alcohol consumption. Their appraisals of the situation's sexual potential, impelling and inhibiting cognitions, and sexual behavior intentions were assessed.


Results revealed that alcohol's expectancy effects on young women's unprotected sexual intentions were mediated by their cognitive appraisals of the situation.


These findings indicate that alcohol expectancies and their influence on women's sexual decisions should be incorporated into sexual risk reduction efforts.

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