The influence of motives on alcohol- and sex-related behaviors among female college students


Purpose: Although previous studies have elucidated associations between motivations for drinking and sex as they relate to risky health outcomes among female college students, the utility of cross-domain motives (i.e., alcohol motives predicting sex-related outcomes and vice versa) in the prediction of specific alcohol- and sex-related behaviors has yet to be examined. The current study examined relations between drinking and sex motives with multiple risky alcohol- and sex-related outcomes (i.e., alcohol consumption, alcohol-related problems, alcohol consumption prior to sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners [vaginal, oral, anal], and emergency contraception use). Procedures: Multiple structural equation models were used to examine univariate and multivariate associations among drinking and sex motives and specific outcomes in a sample of female undergraduates with lifetime histories of alcohol use and sexual activity (N = 436; 77% White, 21% Hispanic). Results: Findings indicated differential associations between motives and specific outcomes across univariate versus multivariate analyses. Multivariate models indicated greater endorsement of enhancement and less endorsement of intimacy sex motives were significantly associated with heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems, whereas alcohol motives were less reliably linked to sex-related outcomes. When considered simultaneously, sex motives accounted for more variance in some alcohol outcomes relative to certain drinking motives. Conclusions: Cross-domain motives may be useful in predicting risky outcomes among female college students. Research implications include the importance of examining motive-behavior relations in univariate and multivariate contexts. Clinical implications include cross-domain motive assessment and use of emotion regulation strategies to reduce emotionally-motivated maladaptive alcohol- and sex-related behaviors.

Drug and Alcohol Dependence