Sex in university may be better for mature audiences: study

December 17, 2009

New university students might be thinking about exploring another rite of passage when they get to campus: the joy of sex. However, depending on their level of maturity, some students may find less joy than others.

New research from University of Alberta psychologists has found that emotionally mature students may get more positive benefits from sex than their less-mature counterparts.

In a study on emotional experiences and sexual behaviours, which included oral and penetrative intercourse, U of A researcher and doctoral student Andrea Dalton and her supervisor Nancy Galambos surveyed first-year students over an eight-month period and found that maturity has an influence on the emotions connected with sexual experience.

"Students who are essentially on the correct developmental timeline with respect to maturity experience sexual behaviour in a positive way," said Dalton. "Immature students, in particular, seem to have negative experiences associated with their sexual behaviour."

Dalton notes that some previous research has viewed sexual activity in young people as inherently negative. Her study points out that for youth who are "on track" emotionally and psychologically, sex may not necessarily be a bad thing. She says that her findings point to the notion that the mature students were, in fact, ready for sex and the psychological and emotional outcomes of that behaviour. The mature students, she notes, benefitted positively by engaging in sexual behaviour.

The study showed there was an increase in negative emotion for the immature students who had penetrative sex. But the same result was not present in members of that group who engaged in oral sex, a finding Dalton says may suggest that students might consider oral sex to be a less serious sexual behaviour and, thus, may have less of an overall negative effect on mood.

While it is the dream of many students to move out on their own, the study findings show that move's effect on emotion was not as utopian as one might think. Dalton's study indicated that students who were living outside of their family home environment reported having more negative emotions than those students who lived at home. The transition to university and moving from home into new social surroundings is filled with stressors, says Dalton. However, sexual intimacy could be serving as a coping mechanism for chasing the blues away.

"There seems to be some kind of compensatory effect of sexual behaviour that brings that negative emotion right down," she said. "That was unexpected but interesting, and was another side of what the relation between emotion and sexual relations might mean for students."

Whereas some students may see Dalton's research and determine that sex is the ultimate litmus test for maturity, Dalton cautions engaging in sexual behaviour without weighing one's personal situation, their level of readiness, the potential risks-such as sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy-and motivations for engaging in sexual activity.

"Sexual behaviour can just be one component of this big puzzle that kids are experiencing as part of the transition to university," said Dalton. "It definitely shouldn't be interpreted as a generally negative behaviour.

"It is a goal of healthy human development to include healthy sexuality as well."
-end-


University of Alberta

Related Behaviour Articles from Brightsurf:

Infection by parasites disturbs flight behaviour in shoals of fish
Shoal behaviour in fish is an important strategy for them to safeguard their survival.

The influence of social norms and behaviour on energy use
People tend to conform to what others do and what others regard as right.

Brainstem neurons control both behaviour and misbehaviour
A recent study at the University of Helsinki reveals how gene control mechanisms define the identity of developing neurons in the brainstem.

Couples can show linked behaviour in terms of risk factors to prevent type 2 diabetes
New research being presented at this year's Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), held online this year, shows that when one half of a couple shows high levels of certain behaviours that prevent type 2 diabetes, such as good diet or exercise, that behaviour also tends to be high in the other half of the couple.

Addicted to the sun? Research shows it's in your genes
Sun-seeking behaviour is linked to genes involved in addiction, behavioural and personality traits and brain function, according to a study of more than 260,000 people led by King's College London researchers.

Less flocking behavior among microorganisms reduces the risk of being eaten
When algae and bacteria with different swimming gaits gather in large groups, their flocking behaviour diminishes, something that may reduce the risk of falling victim to aquatic predators.

Vibes before it bites: 10 types of defensive behaviour for the false coral snake
The False Coral Snake (Oxyrhopus rhombifer) may be capable of recognising various threat levels and demonstrates ten different defensive behaviours, seven of which are registered for the first time for the species.

Unwanted behaviour in dogs is common, with great variance between breeds
All dog breeds have unwanted behaviour, such as noise sensitivity, aggressiveness and separation anxiety, but differences in frequency between breeds are great.

The Lancet Psychiatry: Life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour may be associated with differences in brain structure
Individuals who exhibit life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour - for example, stealing, aggression and violence, bullying, lying, or repeated failure to take care of work or school responsibilities - may have thinner cortex and smaller surface area in regions of the brain previously implicated in studies of antisocial behaviour more broadly, compared to individuals without antisocial behaviour, according to an observational study of 672 participants published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

World-first studies reveal occurrence of 'chew and spit' eating behaviour
A landmark study into the prevalence of the disordered eating behaviour known as 'chew and spit' has revealed concerning levels of such episodes among teenagers.

Read More: Behaviour News and Behaviour Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.