Those who indicated that they were not sexually active (348) or who responded “other” (22) were excluded from the analysis.
In addition, 29 respondents who said their most recent partner was a stranger were excluded because of the possibility that these experiences were nonconsensual.
Completion of the survey implied consent to participate, and all study protocols were approved by the University of Minnesota's institutional review board.
Respondents were asked to describe their most recent sexual partner, using one of the following categories: stranger; casual acquaintance; close but not exclusive partner; exclusive dating partner; fiancé(e), spouse or spousal equivalent; or other.
Likewise, physical intimacy without concomitant emotional intimacy may leave one feeling used, feeling unable to attract a romantic (not merely sexual) partner or questioning one's self-worth; any of these outcomes may jeopardize psychological well-being.
Nevertheless, few peer-reviewed studies have examined the mental health associations with (or consequences of) nonromantic sexual activity.
Young adults who engage in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at greater risk for harmful psychological outcomes than sexually active young adults in more committed relationships.
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Speculation in public discourse suggests that sexual encounters outside a committed romantic relationship may be emotionally damaging for young people, and federal abstinence education policy has required teaching that sexual activity outside of a marital relationship is likely to have harmful psychological consequences.
In addition, we assess four elements of psychological well-being across groups reporting different types of sexual partners.
On the basis of previous research findings, we expect to find stronger inverse associations between casual partnerships and psychological well-being among females than among males.