Abstract: Do You Sext Before Sex? The Influence of Sexting on Sexual Behaviors Among Adolescents: Race and Gender Effects (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

303 Do You Sext Before Sex? The Influence of Sexting on Sexual Behaviors Among Adolescents: Race and Gender Effects

Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Megan Hicks, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Poco Kernsmith, PhD, Associate Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Joanne Smith-Darden, PhD, Assistant Professor for Research, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Introduction: Sexting, defined as sending sexually explicit messages from one adolescent to another, has emerged as a significant public health issue (Kernsmith, Victor, & Smith-Darden, 2018). Sexting is associated with risky behaviors, such as substance use and other sexual behaviors, such as oral and vaginal sex (Houck et al., 2014; Temple & Choi, 2014). Despite these recent findings, existing research is still limited. Current studies on sexting are often cross-sectional, which limits the ability to determine the temporal order of sexting and sexual behaviors. This means knowledge is limited surrounding sexting as a way of initiating sex within a relationship or after a sexual encounter adolescents may feel comfortable sharing sexting messages. Additionally, studies have focused on samples of young adults or college students (Benotsch, Snipes, & Bull, 2014). The current study extends the literature by examining sexting and sexual behaviors longitudinally among adolescents and by examining race and gender differences that may play a role in sexting behaviors.

Methods: Data for this study is from a prospective, 4-year longitudinal study of 1240 adolescents recruited from 6 schools across the Midwest. At Time 2 of data collection, 1035 adolescents completed surveys, then 969 at Time 3, and 887 at Time 4. We used an autoregressive model with cross-lagged effects using Mplus to test study hypotheses.

Results: Sexting at Time 1 predicted oral and sexual encounters (anal or vaginal) at Time 4 for Black males, White males, and White females but not for Black females. Oral sex and sexual counters at Time 4 did not predict any sexting at Time 1 for all groups. Therefore, this establishes sexting as an antecedent to sexual behaviors for Black males, White males, and White females. Sexting at Time 1 and Sexual Behaviors (oral or sexual encounters) at Time 1 did not predict sexting and sexual behaviors for Black females at Time 4 and vice versa. However, sexting, and sexual behaviors were significantly associated cross-sectionally at Time 1 and Time 4.

Conclusions: Findings have implications fore prevention. This study identifies sexting as a precursor to sexual behaviors among Black male adolescents and White male and female adolescents. Therefore, when tailoring programs for safe sex among these populations, focusing on sexting may reduce sexual risky behaviors.