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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Hookups are uncommitted sexual encounters that range from kissing to intercourse and occur between individuals in whom there is no current dating relationship and no expressed or acknowledged expectations of a relationship following the hookup. Research over the last decade has begun to focus on hooking up among adolescents and young adults with ificant research demonstrating how alcohol is often involved in hooking up.

The current review extends prior reviews by adding more recent research, including both qualitative and experimental studies i. This article will review the operationalization and ambiguity of the phrase hooking up, the relationship between hooking up and alcohol use at both the global and event levels, predictors of alcohol-related hooking up, and both positive and negative consequences, including sexual victimization, associated with alcohol-related hookups.

Throughout, commentary is provided on the methodological issues present in the field, as well as limitations of the existing research. Future directions for research that could ificantly advance our understanding of hookups and alcohol use are provided. In the United States, adolescence and young adulthood are times marked by self-exploration, instability, decision making, and identity formation Arnett,; Manning et al.

These explorations frequently occur within the context of romantic and sexual relationships Osgood et al. Among United States adolescents in grades 9—12, In addition to sexual experiences often occurring in adolescence and young adulthood, alcohol use initiation and continuation occurs during these developmental periods and research indicates that sexual experiences and alcohol use often co-occur Johnson and Chen, The co-occurrence between alcohol use and sexual behavior is not surprising as alcohol use is prevalent in both adolescence and young adulthood with 9.

By 12th grade, approximately Further, there appears to be an age-graded trend with alcohol use increasing from adolescence into young adulthood Jackson and Sartor, This indicates that at the same time adolescents and young adults are exploring their sexual and romantic identities, they are also beginning to drink alcohol more frequently. Importantly, the use of alcohol in sexual encounters can increase the likelihood that individuals experience both emotional i.

Although there are many possible frameworks i. According to alcohol myopia theory Steele and Josephs,alcohol disinhibits behavior primarily as a result of its pharmacologic effects on information processing, such that acute alcohol intoxication creates cognitive impairment that in an inability to attend fully to situational cues.

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For risky sexual behavior, acutely intoxicated individuals may be less likely to attend to less salient and more distal cues i. Regarding sexual victimization, acute alcohol intoxication can cause cognitive impairments that can lead to ineffective risk perception and lower likelihood of using effective resistance strategies Norris et al. Both survey and experimental studies have demonstrated a connection between alcohol use and both risky sexual behavior and sexual assault e.

Given that alcohol myopia has been applied broadly to sexual risk-taking in general e. As such, the present review will focus on one specific set of sexual behaviors, hooking up, in terms of definitions, predictors, and its association with alcohol use and related consequences among adolescents and young adults, with the understanding that alcohol myopia is one potential mechanism.

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In order to ground this review, we have chosen a definition of hooking up in line with other studies e. Additionally, hooking up seems to follow an age-graded trend which increases from adolescence into young adulthood and peaks around the age of 21 Lyons et al. This trend is not surprising given the developmental tasks of young adulthood whereby committed relationships can be a seen as a challenge to individual life plans in the realms of education, work, and financial demands e.

Studying hooking up has expanded in the last several years across many research areas and alcohol use is one behavior commonly linked with hooking up. The alcohol use-hooking up relationship has been found at the global level i. While hooking up overall may not be necessarily risky in and of itself, it is of particular importance to study the effects of alcohol use with hooking up given their high prevalence rates and links to negative psychological consequences including depression and low self-esteem, e.

Given that hookups can be unplanned, with unfamiliar partners, and in unfamiliar contexts, the occurrence of unprotected sex may increase. Associations related to unprotected sex are important to investigate as adolescents and young adults have the highest rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and undiagnosed HIV and for half of the 19 million new cases of STIs diagnosed in the United States each year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], A greater understanding of the relationships among alcohol, hooking up, and related consequences will provide insight to how and for whom prevention programs should be targeted to reduce possible negative consequences.

Additionally, because promoting safer sexual behavior is one of the U. Department of Health and Human Services,developing a greater understanding of how to promote safer sexual practices under the circumstances of hooking up is imperative. As such, this article will review terminology used to describe hooking up and will describe the associations between hooking up and alcohol use, predictors of alcohol-related hooking up, positive and negative consequences of alcohol-related hooking up, and future directions for research.

In order to achieve the aims of this review, studies were retrieved from 1 electronic databases, 2 reference sections of relevant papers, and 3 professional journals using established guidelines Rosenthal, ; Reed and Baxter, Search terms were adjusted based on the specific requirements of each electronic database. We conducted a broad search of studies examining alcohol-related hooking up. Second, we reviewed the references of papers obtained through the database searches.

Titles and abstracts for all references were reviewed with relevant articles retained for full paper reviews. The literature cited within this paper was chosen with a focus on understanding the current literature on hooking up and alcohol use among adolescents and young adults and not on risky sexual behavior generally. Articles were discarded if they did not focus explicitly on both alcohol use and hooking up. For example, although there is a broad literature on hooking up in general, only studies that focused on the overlap between alcohol and hooking up were retained for the review.

Similarly, articles focusing on alcohol use and sexual behavior generally were discarded if they did not explicitly address hooking up. Initial searches revealed approximately potential studies published before April 1, Of these studies, titles and abstracts were reviewed and 59 articles were retained for full paper review. It is important to note that there have been reviews of hooking up Heldman and Wade, ; Garcia et al. While these reviews and meta-analysis propose several directions for future research and added to the existing body of research on these topics, our review specifically focuses on the relationship between hooking up and alcohol use, not sexual behavior more generally or hooking up only.

Additionally, the meta-analysis conducted by Claxton et al. While this meta-analysis was an important step in establishing a link between alcohol use and hooking up, the current review adds to the literature by incoporating more recent research, including both qualitative and experimental studies i.

Before delving into a review of the alcohol and hooking up literature, it is important to first define hooking up. In reviewing the literature on hooking up, it is notable that there are a of related terms, e. However, not all of these terms are used to describe the same type of sexual behavior or have the same risks or associations.

While this review focuses on hooking up and its association with alcohol use and related consequences among adolescents and young adults, it is essential to clarify what hooking up is not in order to get a clear sense of what exactly the term refers to. For instance, hooking up is distinct from dating in that in dating typically involves some form of romantic relationship between two people whereas no current or future relationship is present or expected among two individuals hooking up Glenn and Marquardt, ; Bogle, Also of importance, it is essential to note that many of these terms are not mutually exclusive.

For example, a hookup and a one-night stand might be one and the same; however, they may also differ in that penetrative sex is typically expected in a one-night stand whereas hooking up can involve sexual contact ranging from kissing to penetrative sex. The term hooking up appeared in the literature after e. Since this time, there have been numerous definitions for the term, which has the potential to lead to problems in research i.

Definitions of hooking up found in the literature often vary by what is considered uncommitted and with whom hookups occur. For example, level of commitment may be specific for the current relationship at the time of the hookup i. Regarding hookup partners, some definitions of hooking up have been limited to heterosexual experiences or only new partners who are strangers or brief acquaintances, thus omitting partners, friends, or same-sex sexual behaviors Paul et al.

It is important to note that while most definitions now include both same- and opposite-sex experiences, research outside of White, heterosexual college student populations is still sorely needed Rupp et al. While researchers historically have not used a consistent definition of hooking up, the field is generally working toward standardization of terminology. A clearer conceptualization of hooking up is more the result of researchers wanting to increase meaning in study findings rather than a reflection of cultural changes in hooking up.

Recent definitions of hooking up found in the literature tend to address: 1 the non-committed nature of the hookup, such that there are no expressed or acknowledged expectations of a relationship following the hookup, 2 that hookups include sexual contact ranging from kissing to penetrative sex, and 3 that hookups may occur between two people who are strangers, acquaintances, friends, or ex-partners Garcia et al.

Moreover, the use of other terminology to describe the same boundaries of behavior occurs as well e. However, it should be noted that using research-generated definitions for hooking up does not resolve all possible methodological issues. For instance, participants may disregard the provided definition in research and answer questions based on their personal understanding of the term, which may vary widely Epstein et al. The field would greatly benefit from consistent use of a standardized definition of hooking up to better draw comparisons across studies and ease interpretation of findings when examining how hooking up is associated with other health and risk outcomes.

In addition to and perhaps as an analog of less than optimal operationalization of the term hooking up among researchers, it is notable that young adults have various meanings for the term hooking up e. Lewis et al. The research team coded and analyzed these open-ended definitions of hooking up and determined that there were three clusters of student definitions. Cluster 1 had the broadest definition of hooking up and included sex generally, making out, and confusion over the term hooking up.

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Cluster 2 had a definition that noted sex generally but that also placed emphasis on interpersonal and social aspects of hooking up i. Finally, Cluster 3 had a definition that focused on sex with notable reference to specific types of sex i. It is clear from these findings that the ambiguity of the term leaves it open to interpretation among college students.

There is some evidence that adolescents may vary in their description of hooking up by age. Middle school students likened hooking up more often with dating behavior; however, some high school students did as well Rowley and Hertzog, Thus, adolescents and young adults may utilize the vagueness of the term as a way to either promote their sexual status or as a way to downplay their sexual experiences.

While there are possible positive consequences resulting from the ambiguity of the term, there is also the potential for negative consequences. Ambiguity may increase the risk of negative emotional outcomes Strokoff et al. Taken together, it is clear that although the term hookup lacks a single, universal definition, there appears to be some consensus among young people and researchers that hooking up involves sexual interactions that occur outside of committed romantic relationships i.

Similarly, although hookups may involve a wide range of sexual behaviors e. Further, while providing a clear definition would help the field moving forward, a precise definition may obscure the intricacies of how individuals view their sexual behavior and relationship statuses.

Thus, the ambiguity of this term has potential consequences related to health and well-being and has some potential limitations related to the interpretation and application of study findings. As with sexual behavior more generally Cooper,; Leigh, ; Brown and Vanable, ; Cavazos-Rehg et al. The strength of the association between alcohol with hooking up varies by whether alcohol and hooking up are measured globally i. Additionally, Claxton et al. For these reasons, clearly identifying the relationship between alcohol use and hooking up has been and continues to be a challenge.

Alcohol consumption has been consistently linked to hooking up such that those who consume alcohol at high levels and use it more often are more likely than those who do not to engage in hookups overall, to hook up more frequently, and to report having a greater of hookup partners Desiderato and Crawford, ; Owen et al.

Although most research in this area has been conducted on college students, the general relationship between overall alcohol use and hooking up has been upheld in middle and high school students Fortunato et al. Research also indicates possible gender differences, such that the relationship between hooking up and alcohol use may be stronger for women than for men Owen and Fincham, ; Owen et al.

When examining specific hookup behaviors, findings vary according to the type of behavior assessed and the specific drinking measure. Findings are also mixed with regard to vaginal sex such that no relationship was found between vaginal sex and binge drinking in first-year students Fielder et al. In contrast, Paul et al. Similarly, vaginal sex during hookups has been associated with typical drinking Lewis et al.

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