Young Adult Casual Sexual Behavior: Life-Course-Specific Motivations and Consequences


Most young adults have had some casual sex experience. However, it is important to understand

the motivations for such behavior. We investigate the motivations for and consequences

of casual sex using a life-course lens. We use the Toledo Adolescent Relationship Study to

examine a diverse sample of young adults with recent casual sexual experiences (N = 239).

We draw on a subset of in-depth relationship narratives (N = 44) to provide a more nuanced

understanding of the motivations for and consequences of casual sex. We find that sexual

pleasure and substance use remain the most common reasons for participating in casual sex.

However, young adults report motives that are associated with the young adult stage in the life

course including too busy for commitment, geographic mobility, and feeling too young to be tied

down. These findings can inform service providers who work with the young adult population.



Casual sex, Life-course theory, Young adults, Gender


Lyons, Heidi A., Wendy D. Manning, Monica A. Longmore, and Peggy C. Giordano. 2014. “Young Adult Casual Sexual Behavior: Life Course Specific Motivations and Consequences.” Sociological Perspective 57: 79-101.