Date of Award

1-1-2011

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Psychology

Sub-Department

Clinical-Community Psychology

First Advisor

Mark D Weist

Abstract

While nearly 90% of college students report having engaged in sexual intercourse, studies suggest that many undergraduates inconsistently use condoms, have multiple casual partners, and use drugs or alcohol prior to having sex. Risky sexual behavior can have detrimental consequences on health, including increasing the risk for unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, understanding the risks associated with sexual behavior during this period is critical. Sexual risk taking has been linked to depressive symptoms and body image concerns, both of which may decrease ability or desire to negotiate for safer sex. However the relationship between these risks has not been studied in tandem. The current study examines the role of depressive symptoms and body image, including appearance evaluation and appearance orientation, on the following variables: number of monogamous partners, number of casual partners, condom use, and risky casual sex. Women (n = 442, M age = 20.30) from a large public university participated in a study examining student behavior. Results indicated that appearance evaluation was positively related to greater number of monogamous partners, while appearance orientation was positively related to greater number of casual partners. The interaction of appearance evaluation and depressive symptoms was significantly related to both condom use and risky casual sex. At low levels of depressive symptoms, appearance evaluation did not play a significant role in the use of condoms; however, at low levels of depressive symptoms, women with higher appearance evaluation were less likely to engage in risky casual sex than women with lower appearance evaluation. At high levels of depressive symptoms, women with higher appearance evaluation were significantly less likely to use condoms and were significantly more likely to engage in risky casual sex than women with lower appearance evaluation. Results from this study provide preliminary evidence that both body image and depressive symptoms are important considerations for the prevention of risky sexual behavior. Moreover, it is important to understand the multifaceted components of body image - including appearance evaluation and appearance orientation and how they may interact in relating to various types of sexual risk taking behavior.

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