Online Program

Improving the sexual health of college students: The importance of communication in college students' steady and casual relationships

Monday, November 4, 2013

Angela Colletta, Psychology Department, Providence College, RI
Lori Scott-Sheldon, PhD, Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, The Miriam Hospital, PROVIDENCE, RI
Jennifer Harman, PhD, Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Sexually active college students engage in behaviors that put them at increased risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Communication within relationships can improve sexual health outcomes. The purpose of this study was to (1) understand college students' motivations for sexual communication and (2) determine whether the motivation to acquire or disclose relationship threatening information (RTI) is associated with relationship dynamics such as trust, and sexual power. Participants were 60 college students (55% women, 81% white, M age = 19, 95% heterosexual) who were in a relationship (partner type: 31 steady, 14 casual, 15 both steady and casual). Participants were recruited from introductory psychology courses and completed computer-based surveys that assessed relationship-specific communication. Participants with casual partners wanted to acquire more RTI than those with both steady and casual partners, t(20) = 2.86, p <.01. No differences were found on acquiring RTI (p=.11) or disclosing RTI (p=.88) among those with steady or both partner types or casual and both partner types (p=.20). Participants wanted to acquire more RTI when their steady partner was dependable (r = 0.29, p = .05) and were willing to disclose information when they had faith in their casual partner (r = 0.43, p = .02). Findings suggest very different motivations for communication in steady or casual relationships. Talking about RTI is difficult, but a barrier that must be overcome in order to prevent STI's and unintended pregnancy. Future research is needed to enhance communication within steady and casual relationships.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Chronic disease management and prevention

Learning Objectives:
Explain how partner type influences motivation to disclose or acquire relationship threatening information Discuss sexual communication patterns among college students

Keyword(s): College Students, Contraceptives

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an undergraduate student with an interest in health psychology and health-related behaviors, specifically, risky sexual behavior among adolescents. My interest in this topic has lead me to pursue research opportunities outside of the classroom, where I worked most recently on writing this very paper which I hope to have submitted to a journal in the near future.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.