Gender and Casual Sex from Adolescence to Young Adulthood: Social and Life Course Correlates


The prevalence of casual sexual activity among teens and emerging adults has led to much public

attention. Yet limited research has investigated whether the number of casual sexual partners per

year changes as heterosexual men and women transition from adolescence into emerging

adulthood. We considered the influence of social context and life course factors on the number

of casual sex partners. We examined four waves of interviews from the Toledo Adolescent

Relationships Study and used negative binomial growth curve models to investigate patterns of

change in the number of casual sex partners (N = 1,196) ages 15 to 22. Men and women both

reported increases in the number of casual sex partners over time, and did not differ from each

other in the rate of change over time. Forty percent of respondents reported a recent casual sex

partner at age 22. Number of prior dating relationships, education status, substance use, and

perceptions of peer sexual behavior significantly influenced the number of casual sex partners.

Emerging adults who did not complete high school, compared to those enrolled in four-year

degree programs, reported significantly more partners. The findings contribute to research on

intimate relationships and provide insights for programs targeting emerging adults.



Casual sex, Young adults, Life course


Lyons, Heidi A., Wendy D. Manning, Monica A. Longmore, and Peggy C. Giordano. Forthcoming. “Gender and Casual Sexual Activity from Adolescence to Emerging Adulthood: Social and Life Course Correlates.” Journal of Sex Research.