Sexual Behavior and Daily Affect in Emerging Adulthood

Sara A. Vasilenko, Eva S. Lefkowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Although sexual behavior has been linked to mental health and well-being in adolescence and adulthood, relatively little is known about how sexual behavior is associated with well-being in emerging adulthood. This article uses data from college students (N = 364; Mage = 18.4; range = 16.9–20.8; 57.4% female; 29.1% Hispanic/Latino [HL], 25.0% non-HL European American, 17.3% non-HL Asian American, 17.0% non-HL African American, and 11.5% non-HL multiracial) who reported vaginal intercourse on at least 1 day during six semesters of 14-day data collection (n = 26,609 total days; n = 2,313 vaginal sex days). Multilevel models showed that students reported higher levels of positive affect on days they had vaginal sex compared to days they did not. Students reported higher levels of negative affect if they had sex with a nondating partner or experienced more negative consequences of sex. Findings suggest that sex is associated with better short-term well-being in emerging adulthood, but this association differs by situational factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-199
Number of pages9
JournalEmerging Adulthood
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • daily diary
  • emerging adulthood
  • positive and negative affect
  • romantic relationships
  • sexual behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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