The role of transitional instability, psychological distress, and dysfunctional drinking in emerging adults’ involvement in risky sex

Jill R. Bowers, Chris G Segrin, Nicholas Joyce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


The consequences of risky sexual behaviors are a serious health concern. We hypothesized that the transitional instability that occurs as a part of typical developmental changes in emerging adulthood would be positively associated with sexual risk taking. A survey of emerging adults showed that the instability–sexual risk-taking association was positive and significant as predicted. Moreover, psychological distress (depression and loneliness) and dysfunctional drinking motivations (drinking to ease emotional pain or to gain peer acceptance) moderated and intensified the association between instability and sexual risk taking. Implications for future research with instability and risk-taking behaviors in emerging adulthood are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1097-1119
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016



  • College students
  • depression
  • emerging adults
  • instability
  • loneliness
  • problem drinking
  • psychological distress
  • risky behaviors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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