Casual Sex among Australian Schoolies
Maticka-Tyndale, Eleanor, Herold, Edward S., Oppermann, Martin, The Journal of Sex Research
Each year thousands of Australian youth, newly graduated or in their last years of high school, descend on the Australian Gold Coast during late November and early December. These "schoolies," as they are commonly called, are participating in an annual beach-side phenomenon similar to the North American "spring break" holiday that has recently received considerable research attention (e.g., Josiam, Hobson, Dietrich, & Smeaton, 1998; Maticka-Tyndale, Herold, & Mewhinney, 1998; Mattila, Apostolopoulos, Sonmez, Yu, & Sasidharan, 2001). Both schoolies week and spring break are holidays when youth travel with friends and gather in large numbers, typically at beach resorts, with the goal of an adult-free, responsibility-free, fun time. Advertisements for both holidays stress a carefree party atmosphere complete with easy availability of alcohol and sex (Mewhinney, Herold, & Maticka-Tyndale, 1995; Smith & Rosenthal, 1997). One key difference between the Australian and North American experience is the age of the vacationers. Spring breakers are college and university students whose ages cluster between 19 and 21 years for students in the United States (Josiam et al., 1998) and 21 and 23 years for students in Canada (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998), while schoolies are typically new high school graduates or students in their final year of high school with a mean age less than 18 years (Smith & Rosenthal, 1997). The schoolie and spring break environments provide settings for research on how social and situational contexts influence sexual activity.
Prior research with Canadian and American university students on spring break used Triandis' theory of interpersonal behavior (TIB) as an explanatory framework for both casual sex (Apostolopoulos, Sonmez, Sasidharan, & Jovicich, 1999; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998) and condom use (Maticka-Tyndale & Herold, 1999). (1) The research reported in this paper tested an expanded version of the TIB developed in the earlier work on Canadian spring breakers (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998) to explain the casual sex activity among Australian schoolies.
Having sex is both the expectation and experience of many youths on beach vacations in different countries. In an earlier study of schoolies (Smith & Rosenthal, 1997), two thirds of males and one third of females expected to have sexual intercourse during their schoolies week vacation. About 40% experienced sexual intercourse, with 61.4% of these reporting that they had sex with a casual partner. Similarly, 55% of Canadian men and 11% of women intended to engage in sexual intercourse, and 28% of men and 25% of women reported doing so, while celebrating spring break at a beach resort in Florida. Over 50% of those who were sexually active reported this was with a new, casual partner (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998). Apostolopoulos et al. (1999) and Josiam at al. (1998) obtained similar results for American youths on spring break vacation.
In searching for explanations of the apparent holiday/vacation effect on sexual activity, most research has focused on the influence of personal history and demographic characteristics on the sexual practices of travelers (e.g., Arvidson, Hellberg, & Mardh, 1996; Bloor et al., 1998; Smeaton & Josiam, 1996). The most prominent explanation of these effects has been that the patterns of sexual partnering and lifestyle established at home "spillover" or are carried into and replicated in the vacation environment. The spillover hypothesis has received support from both clinic-based studies that document higher rates of casual sex on vacation on the part of those who engaged in casual sex at home (e.g., Hawkes, Hart, Bletsoe, Shergold, & Johnson, 1995) and studies of youthful vacationers, with most of those who engage in casual sex on vacation reporting prior coital experience at home (e.g., Smith & Rosenthal, 1997).
An alternative approach has been to examine whether and how holiday characteristics themselves influence sexual behavior. In reviewing the travel literature, Herold and Van Kerkwijk (1992) identified a sense of freedom from at-home restrictions, relaxation of inhibitions, a focus on having a good time, and high alcohol consumption as characteristics of holidays and vacations that were conducive to heightened sensitivity to sexual arousal and increased sexual activity. A growing body of research on recreational travel by youth, specifically to beach settings, has similarly focused on understanding the influence of the vacation setting on sexual practices. According to Shields (1990), for example, the beach environment has become associated with the hedonistic goal of obtaining pleasure. Vacation-goers engage in activities that contrast with the norms that guide everyday life. Shields introduced the concept of liminality, defined as a temporary loss of social bearings, to explain the special status of the beach. Ford and Eiser (1996), in their study of an English seaside resort, applied liminality to interpreting sexual practices in the environment of the beach holiday, saying that it "may include a greater openness to socio-sexual contact with new friends, a removal of norms and constraints on personal behavior, and possibly an enhanced recklessness within passing sexual encounters" (p. 169). They suggested the more specific concept of situational disinhibition to explain the actions of the 24% in their sample who reported sexual intercourse and the 33% who reported other forms of sexual activity (Eiser & Ford, 1995). Those who reported feeling less inhibited in the holiday setting (than at home) were more likely to engage in casual sex. Maticka-Tyndale et al.'s (1998) research on Canadian university students on spring break vacation lends further support to the situational disinhibition hypothesis. Situational conditions in the form of activities or experiences of spring breakers and peer group role modeling of casual sex during spring break were strong predictors of casual sex activity. Prior intercourse activity with a casual partner (an indicator of spillover), on the other hand, was not significantly related to casual sex on spring break (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998). The situational disinhibition hypothesis is also supported in clinic-based research. In a study of patients at two Glasgow clinics, researchers compared the number of new sexual contacts per week at home to the number while abroad (Carter et al., 1997). Using this weekly comparison, Carter et al. found that the number of new sexual contacts while traveling abroad was significantly higher than at home, suggesting that travel increased the probability of sexual activity and supporting the idea that something about a holiday, potentially situational disinhibition, contributes to an increase in casual partnering.
While liminality and situational disinhibition may be common characteristics of recreational travel, especially at beach resorts, not all tourists necessarily respond with casual sexual encounters. Gender and cultural differences have been shown to have an important influence on sexual activity. Women, for example, are consistently less likely to report casual sex intentions and encounters than men (e.g., Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998; Smith & Rosenthal, 1997). In qualitative interviews, Thomas (2000) found that female travelers' sexual activity was affected by their perception of the judgments of their peers and a requirement for private space (at times difficult to find when traveling as a group). A study conducted by Vorakitphokatorn, Pulerwitz, and Cash (1998) demonstrated cultural differences among female tourists (ages 17-30) at beach resorts in Thailand. Half as many Japanese (8%) as Western women (16%) reported sexual contact with a new partner at the resort, and 5 times as many Western women (50%) as Japanese women (10%) reported that they would be willing to develop a new sexual relationship on their visit (Vorakitphokatom et al., 1998).
While much of the research on holiday casual sex has focused on either the influence of personal characteristics and past experiences or that of the holiday situation, clearly such either/or explanations are simplistic and incomplete. Human behavior is influenced by both established characteristics and prior experiences and by present situations or circumstances. Triandis' theory of interpersonal behavior (Triandis, 1977, 1980, 1994) combines both of these influences and theorizes that behavior is determined by the separate and joint effects of intentions (which themselves are determined by personal characteristics such as attitudes and norms), prior experiences or patterns of behavior (referred to as habits), and the experiences and conditions of the current situation. The TIB belongs to the school of cognitive models that includes the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980) and the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1985). These theories explain how attitudes and norms influence the development of intentions to act in particular ways (e.g., to engage in sexual activity while on a holiday), with intention posited as the primary determinant of the eventual behavior. Triandis has gone beyond the other theories in this group by building a tri-level model to explain behavior. In the first level, he theorizes how prior experiences with a particular behavior together with personal characteristics such as gender, social class, and ethnicity lead to the development of personal attitudes, normative beliefs, and social norms related to that behavior. Thus, the nature of prior experiences with casual sex together with experiences and characteristics developed as a result, for example, of one's gender, ethnicity, and social class will influence the affective and cognitive attitudes individuals have toward casual sex, their normative views of casual sex, and their perceptions of the social norms of their "group" (e.g., family, peer group, religious group, ethnic group) with respect to casual sex. In the second level of the TIB, Triandis explains how these attitudes and norms, together with expectations related to a future situation, influence the formation of intentions regarding the behavior in question. Thus, the attitudes and norms which an individual holds with respect to casual sex together with expectations of what schoolies week will be like influence the formation of intentions about whether or not to engage in casual sex on schoolies week. Finally, in the third level of the TIB, whether or not an individual engages in a particular behavior is theorized as influenced by the separate and interactive effects of intentions regarding the behavior, prior experience with this or similar behaviors (referred to as establishing a habit), and the experiences and conditions encountered in a particular situation. Thus, whether a young person engages in casual sex during schoolies week is influenced by intentions to engage in casual sex, prior experience with casual sex, and the interaction with the young person's experiences during schoolies week. If experiences are conducive to engaging in casual sex, they accentuate the effect of intentions and prior experience with casual sex. Those who intend to engage in sexual intercourse during schoolies week are more likely, for example, to interpret their schoolies week experiences as conducive to engaging in casual sex than are those who do not have such intentions. Those who have engaged in casual sex in the past may interpret their schoolies week experiences as similar to the experiences they had in the past that were conducive to casual sex. Thus, while intentions, prior experiences, and situational experiences and conditions individually affect behavior, they also have an interactive effect on the eventual behavior.
The second level of the TIB, predicting intentions, has received the most attention in prior research. This is in part because a full test of the model requires longitudinal data, which is difficult to obtain. The second level of the TIB has been tested and used as originally modeled by Triandis (e.g., Boyd & Wandersman, 1991; Godin et al., 1996) and with additions in research on American spring break sexual behaviors (Apostolopoulos et al., 1999). A Canadian study (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998) tested the second and third levels of the TIB, adding two indicators of peer influences: the presence of pacts formed with friends to either engage or not engage in sexual intercourse during the vacation period and the proportion of friends who engaged in sex during the vacation. These additions reflect student descriptions of both spring break and schoolie vacations as holidays where peers travel and party together, with peer group members exerting a strong influence on each others' activities. The addition of peer influence is consistent with Triandis' (1980, 1994) discussion of social influences on the formation of intentions and with prior research which has found peers and beliefs about peers to have strong influences on sexual behavior (e.g., Christopher & Cate, 1984; Daugherty & Burger, 1984; Winslow, Franzini, & Hwang, 1992).
Figure 1 displays the full TIB. The segments with text in bold italics represent the third level of the model, that is, the segment used to explain coital activity with casual partners that we used in this research. Intentions to engage in sexual intercourse, prior experiences of casual sex, and situational experiences or conditions are modeled as having a direct effect on whether vacationers engage in casual sex during their holidays. In addition, situational experiences or conditions are modeled as having an interactive relationship with intentions and prior experience. We added peer influences to this model in the form of two variables: pacts made with friends and role modeling. Of note is that both the spillover and situational disinhibition hypotheses from earlier research can be found embedded within the Triandis model. Spillover is seen in the effect of prior experience and intentions on engaging in casual sex during schoolies week. Situational disinhibition is found in the effect of situational experiences or conditions on engaging in casual sex.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The methodology used in this study closely replicated that used in an earlier study of Canadian students on spring break vacation (described in detail in Maticka-Tyndale & Herold, 1999, and Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998).
This article reports results of analyses that used a sample of youths who were participating in schoolies week at Surfer's Paradise, Australia, in 1998 and who self-identified as heterosexual high school students or those who had "just graduated." (2) The sample consisted of 42.3% men (N = 570) and 57.7% (N = 776) women whose mean age was 17.5 years (range = 14-20 years), with 92.4% either 17 or 18 years of age. The majority of participants had been to Surfer's Paradise in the past (78.1%). The most common length of time the respondents planned to be at Surfer's Paradise was 7 days (50.7%), although 33.5% planned a longer stay. Half of those sampled had been at Surfer's Paradise for 5 or 6 days at the time they completed the survey. Participants came primarily from New South Wales (55%) or Queensland (26%), with smaller numbers from Victoria (8.5%) and the Gold Coast (9.7%) and a few from South or West Australia (0.8% together). Nearly half (49.4%) identified themselves as not currently dating, while 30% identified themselves as dating one person steadily.
Data Collection Procedures
Data were collected using a questionnaire administered at Surfer's Paradise on the Australian Gold Coast during the schoolies week period in November and December 1998. Three female undergraduate research assistants collected data. Questionnaires were administered from Wednesday to Saturday. This insured participants had been at Surfer's Paradise at least 3 complete days and 4 nights because schoolies typically arrive Saturday afternoon and leave the following Saturday morning. Researchers approached young people between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at the beach or on the main tourist street in Surfer's Paradise. They explained the purpose and procedures of the research and the ethical guidelines and provided those who agreed to participate in the study with a brief, anonymous, self-administered questionnaire requiring approximately 10 minutes to complete. Participants were provided with a pencil and a clipboard and were asked not to stand close to someone else as they completed the questionnaires. Research assistants watched from a short distance to discourage respondents from sharing their answers with others. Participants placed completed questionnaires in a closed box.
Of the 2,024 young people who were approached, 1,822 agreed to take part in the survey, producing a response rate of 90%. We excluded 73 questionnaires from the analysis because of incomplete or unusable responses, leaving 1,749 respondents. Of these, 1,346 were schoolies or high school students; the remainder were university students, local residents, or other tourists. The schoolies sample was used in the analyses reported in this article.
We first pilot tested the questionnaire we had used in testing and applying Triandis' (1977, 1980, 1994) theory in the context of Canadian spring break vacations (Herold, Maticka-Tyndale, & Mewhinney, 1998; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998; Maticka-Tyndale & Herold, 1999) with students at Griffith University, Australia. Schoolies week marks the end of students' high school careers; consequently, those still in high school could only respond to the survey based on rumor and expectation rather than based on personal experience. Pilot testing the instrument with university students insured that the pilot sample had experienced schoolies week. Following Triandis' guidelines for developing situation-specific measures, we modified indicators of situational conditions and experiences based on feedback during the pilot test. One question from the original list was deleted (watching wet t-shirt contests) and three were added (being pressured by someone older, using marijuana, using other drags). With these changes, students judged the survey to be reflective of the schoolies week environment.
Measurement of Constructs
The measurement of each construct used in testing the TIB followed guidelines presented by Triandis (1977) and paralleled measures used in prior research with this model (Apostolopoulos et al., 1999; Godin et al., 1996; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998).
Casual sex during schoolies week. To measure the criterion variable, we asked participants whether they engaged in sexual intercourse while at Surfer's Paradise and what their relationship was to their partner. Participation in casual sex was measured using a dichotomous variable coded 0 if the respondent had not engaged in intercourse with anyone while at Surfer's Paradise and 1 if the respondent had engaged in intercourse with someone he or she had neither dated nor known prior to coming to Surfer's Paradise. It should be noted that participants who engaged in sexual intercourse with someone they knew or had dated were excluded from this measure.
Habit or prior casual sex experience. The measurement of habit used in this research was identical to that used in prior research on casual sex during North American spring break (Apostolopoulos et al., 1999; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998; Mattila et al., 2001) and paralleled that used in research on condom use (Godin et al., 1996; Maticka-Tyndale & Herold, 1999). It consisted of a dummy coded variable (0 = no, 1 = yes) indicating whether schoolies had ever engaged in sexual intercourse with someone they had just met (i.e., met that day or evening).
Intention to engage in casual sex during schoolies week. To measure intentions to engage in sexual intercourse with a casual partner, we asked participants about the furthest sexual activity they had intended to engage in with someone new when planning the trip to the Gold Coast. Responses were dummy coded, with those who responded that they intended to engage in sexual intercourse with someone new coded 1 and all other forms of sexual activity, namely kissing, sexual touching, and oral sex, coded 0.
Situational experiences. Schoolies week experiences conducive to casual sex were measured using participants' ratings (on a 4-point scale ranging from never to frequently) of how often they had each of 15 specific experiences: (a) partying, (b) being in a break-loose mood, (c) drinking alcohol, (d) getting drank, (e) dancing dirty, (f) trying to pick someone up, (g) being the target of an attempted pick-up, (h) having the sense that everyone was having sex, (i) knowing that someone wanted to have sex with the respondent, (j) feeling pressured by peers to have sexual intercourse, (k) pressuring someone sexually, (1) being pressured sexually by someone, (m) being pressured sexually by someone older, (n) using marijuana, and (o) using other drugs. Each item was coded so higher scores indicated greater situational disinhibition or pressure favorable to engaging in sexual intercourse. In principal components analysis, all but the last 2 items (using marijuana and using other drugs) loaded on a single factor, indicating that the remaining 13 items formed a unidimensional scale. Cronbach's alpha for these 13 items was .90. This value did not increase with removal of any of the items from the scale, suggesting that an additive scale comprising these 13 items had strong internal consistency. We used individuals' mean scores over these 13 items as the situational experience measure.
Pacts. We measured the presence of pacts with friends using dichotomous, dummy-coded responses (0 = no, 1 = yes) to two questions asking whether participants had made promises, agreements, or pacts with the friends who accompanied them to Surfer's Paradise to engage in sex with someone new or, alternatively, not to engage in sex with someone new while at Surfer's Paradise.
Role modeling. Participant reports of how many friends had engaged in sexual intercourse with someone they met while at Surfer's Paradise (0 = none, 0.25 = few, 0.5 = about half, 0.75 = most) were used as a measure of the perceived role modeling of casual intercourse activity by peers.
Additional items. We asked respondents additional questions about their sexual orientations, sexual experiences prior to this vacation, and activities while at Surfer's Paradise. These included whether they self-identified as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual; the number of sexual partners prior to this vacation; the number of times they were drunk on this vacation; the number of partners with whom they "fooled around" in a sexual way but did not engage in intercourse while on vacation; the number of intercourse partners while at Surfer's Paradise; and whether they were drunk and/or whether they used condoms at last intercourse.
We compared men and women on all variables in the model as well as on the additional items included in the questionnaire. This analysis was followed by bivariate analyses comparing participants who did not engage in intercourse to those who engaged in casual sex on each variable in the model.
We ran several diagnostic tests to establish the suitability of the data to multivariate analysis. Results of two of these tests--comparison of men's and women's covariance matrices and tests for multicollinearity--influenced the conduct of the analyses. In a comparison of the covariance matrices for men and women, we identified four of the eight predictor variables as significantly different across the two covariance matrices, suggesting there were probable interactions with gender. This finding supported the need to conduct separate analyses for men and women. Separate analyses were also supported by earlier research on vacation sexual experiences where different causal mechanisms were found to influence men's and women's sexual behaviors (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998; Smith & Rosenthal, 1997; Thomas, 2000).
The presence of multivariate collinearity was tested using measures of tolerance and variance inflation, comparisons of the eigenvalues of the variables' uncentered cross-products matrix, and examination of the proportion of variance of each independent variable associated with each eigenvalue (Smith & Sasaki, 1979). These tests supported the conclusion that, with the exception of interaction terms, each predictor variable represented a sufficiently independent portion of variance in participating in casual sex during schoolies week to justify conducting multivariate analyses without modification of variables. To reduce the multicollinearity inherent in interaction terms, Surfer's Paradise experience (SPexp)--the independent variable measured at the interval level--was centered on its mean value as suggested by Smith and Sasaki (1979) and Aiken and West (1991). The dichotomous variables used in the interactions retained their original unweighted dummy coding. The final correlation matrix (see Table 1) supported the conclusion that none of the correlations were high enough (i.e., r [greater than or equal to] .60) to suggest further problems with multicollinearity.
We tested the theoretical model presented in Figure 1 using hierarchical logistic regression with forced entry of blocks of variables. The main effects of predictor variables in Triandis' original model were entered in Model 1. Interaction effects modeled by Triandis were added to create Model 2. Additions to Triandis' model--role modeling by peers and the presence of agreements or pacts struck with friends--were added to create Model 3. We used the statistical significance of the improvement of Model 2 over Model 1 to establish whether we would retain the interaction terms in the final regression (Model 3).
Prior and Surfer's Paradise Sexual Experiences
Most of the schoolies who participated in this study were coitally experienced (64% of men, 59.8% of women) prior to coming to Surfer's Paradise (see Table 2), with nearly two thirds of the coitally experienced men and a third of the coitally experienced women reporting they had, at some time prior to this holiday, engaged in sexual intercourse with a new partner within 24 hours of their initial meeting (the operationalization of casual sex used here). Men who were sexually experienced reported an average of 3.7 prior coital partners compared to women's 2.4. Considerably more men than women (58% compared to 18%) reported that they intended to engage in sexual intercourse during schoolies week. This was consistent with the pacts formed with friends, in which women were more likely to have made pacts with friends not to engage in sexual intercourse at Surfer's Paradise (26.6%) while men were more likely to have made pacts to do so (38%). Fewer women (43%) than men (71%) believed that one or more of their friends had actually engaged in sexual intercourse while at Surfer's Paradise, with women also reporting they believed a smaller proportion of their friends (.14 for women and .24 for men) had engaged in intercourse.
When considering the sexual activities of the respondents during schoolies week, we see that more men than women reported both fooling around (60% compared to 45%) and having sexual intercourse (34.5% compared to 23.6%). Of note is that nearly equal proportions of women engaged in sexual intercourse with someone they knew or had dated (12.6%) as with a new or casual partner (11%). For men, however, intercourse with a casual partner (24.8%) was more than 2.5 times as common as intercourse with someone they knew or had dated previously (9.8%). Overall, less than a third of men and fewer than half of women did not engage in any sexual activity. For those who did engage in sexual intercourse with a casual partner or who engaged in fooling around, on average, men reported larger numbers of partners (2.81 for fooling around, 2.07 for intercourse) than did women (2.5 for fooling around, 1.43 for intercourse). When considering numbers of partners, over 60% of the men and approximately 40% of women who engaged in sexual intercourse or in fooling around reported they did this with more than one partner. This suggests that a sizable proportion of those who were sexually active had two or more partners. What should be noted here is that sexual partners, both for fooling around and sexual intercourse, could include other schoolies, local residents, and/or non-schoolie vacationers.
Frequency of drunkenness was even higher than sexual activity, with men reporting being drunk, on average, nearly 4 times since their arrival (3.84), and women 3.5 times. Overall, women had a lower score on the Surfer's Paradise experience scale (2.34 for women compared to 2.52 for men on a 4-point scale), indicating they had participated less often than men had in the activities or had fewer of the listed experiences at Surfer's Paradise.
Comparison of Those Who Engaged in Casual Sex to Those With No Coital Activity
Table 3 provides bivariate data for variables included in the logistic regression models together with two additional variables (time at Surfer's Paradise and prior intercourse experience) as comparisons (in the form of percentages, proportions, or mean scores) of those who did not engage in coitus during schoolies week and those who did so with a casual partner. Correlations between the indicators and the dichotomous variable of no sex or sex with a casual partner found in Table 1 can be used to assess the strength of the effect of each variable on engaging in casual sex. What is apparent from both the comparisons in Table 3 and the correlations in Table 1 is that all relationships are in the direction predicted by the TIB. More of those who engaged in sex with a casual partner intended to engage in intercourse at Surfer's Paradise, were coitally experienced, had casual partners in the past, were more likely to make pacts with friends to engage in sex on vacation, and were less likely to make pacts not to engage in sex on vacation (the latter comparison was not significant for men). In addition, on average, those who engaged in casual sex had been at Surfer's Paradise longer, engaged in Surfer's Paradise activities or experiences more frequently, and had a higher proportion of friends whom they thought had engaged in coital activity with a new partner during this vacation.
In Table 1 we see that the variables having the strongest relationships with casual sex for women were intentions to engage in intercourse (r = .48) and the proportion of friends thought to have engaged in casual sex (r = .44), followed by average frequency of participating in Surfer's Paradise activities (r = .35) and having formed a pact with friends to engage in intercourse (r = .34). For men, excluding the interaction terms, the variables with the strongest relationships to casual sex were Surfer's Paradise activities, past casual sex experiences, and proportion of friends believed to engage in sex (r = .43, .40, and .39 respectively). Of note is that despite the relatively strong correlations between prior casual sex experience and engaging in casual sex during schoolies week (r = .40 for men; r = .30 for women), this was the first casual sex experience for nearly 60% of those who engaged in casual sex during schoolies week and the first coital experience for 14% of the women and 16% of the men.
Explaining Casual Sex Activity
Tables 4 and 5 report results for the logistic regressions of the models explaining the odds of engaging in sex with a casual partner against a base of not engaging in any coital activity. Model 1, with intentions, prior casual sex experience, and frequency of Surfer's Paradise experiences, produced a statistically significant improvement over baseline predictions (which predicted casual sex merely by chance) for both men and women. From the partial correlations we see that, for women, intentions had the strongest effect followed by participation in Surfer's Paradise activities or experiences (Table 4), whereas for men, participation in activities had the strongest effect followed by prior casual sex experience and intentions (see Table 5). Interaction effects added in Model 2 significantly improved predictions for men. In particular, the effect of participation in Surfer's Paradise activities was accentuated for those who had prior casual sex experience. For women, however, interactions did not produce a significant improvement in predictive ability over Model 1. Consequently, we included interaction terms in Model 3 for men but not for women. For both men and women, the addition of peer influences in Model 3 produced a statistically significant improvement in predictive power. For men this was in comparison to Model 2 and for women to Model 1. In both cases, the role modeling provided by peers with respect to their perceived coital activity with new partners during the Surfer's Paradise holiday had a statistically significant influence on whether respondents had engaged in casual sex. The presence of pacts had no significant effect on the odds of men engaging in sex with a casual partner. However, pacts not to engage in casual sex did significantly decrease the odds of participation in casual sex for women. What we see is that the schoolies week experiences, measured by participation in activities and the proportion of friends who are perceived to have participated in sex with a new partner, together with intentions and pacts not to engage in casual sex for women and prior casual sex experience for men, had the strongest effects (main or interactive) on the odds of engaging in sex with a casual partner at Surfer's Paradise.
The results from Model 3 (see Tables 4 and 5) demonstrate the benefits of using a more complex theoretical framework than that offered by earlier research focusing either on spillover of prior behavior or the disinhibiting influence of current experiences. What is gained from this analysis is an understanding of how prior experiences combine with current experiences to influence sexual intercourse with a casual partner.
Finally, we added length of time schoolies were at Surfer's Paradise to Model 3 to test whether the bivariate association seen in Table 4 remained in a multivariate analysis. (3) The fit of the model did not improve significantly, suggesting that rather than contributing independently to predicting casual sex, time on vacation may contribute through an effect on engaging in vacation-related experiences or activities; that is, the longer a person is on vacation, the more likely it is that certain experiences or activities will occur, with these, in turn, influencing engaging in casual sex.
The research reported here builds on earlier work in developing an understanding of sexual activity in vacation settings. It demonstrated the benefits of using Triandis' theory of interpersonal behavior to explain how a particular form of sexual activity while on vacation is influenced by prior experiences, intentions, peers, and situational experiences in the vacation setting. Activities during schoolies week together with prior planning for women and prior casual sex experience for men had an influence on engaging in sexual intercourse with a casual partner. The gender differences found in earlier studies were replicated here, with more men than women intending to engage in intercourse and reporting each form of sexual activity, and with more partners. However, the gender differences were accentuated compared to those found in research with Canadian spring breakers, wherein similar percentages of men and women engaged in sexual intercourse (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998). This could be the result of different gender norms and practices between Canada and Australia or differences in the ages of the two samples. The double standard for sexual activity has been weakening in Canada to the point that quantitative differences in sexual activities of men and women are virtually nonexistent (e.g., Maticka-Tyndale, 2001; Maticka-Tyndale, McKay, & Barrett, 2000; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998). This may not be the case for Australia, where sexual expectations and actions of women may be more restricted than those of men (e.g., Rosenthal & Smith, 1997; Rosenthal, Smith, & deVisser, 1999). Age may also have an influence, with greater differences manifesting between younger men and women (mean age of schoolies = 17.5 years) than between older men and women (mean age of spring breakers = early 20s).
Both gender similarities and differences were evident in the effects of predictor variables on engaging in casual sex. The effect of peers in influencing whether schoolies engaged in casual sex was strong for both men and women. This was seen in the effect of role modeling. However, for women, entering into agreements or pacts with friends not to engage in casual sex during schoolies week also had an influence, a finding held in common with the study of Canadian spring breakers (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998). The process by which these pacts influenced women could be similar to the one described by Thomas (2000) in which women made decisions about their sexual actions based on concerns about their friends' judgments of them. Alternatively, the influence of pacts could reflect what Canadian women on spring break vacation described as "friends looking out for each other and getting you out of trouble when it looked like something was going to happen" (notes from interviews conducted with Canadian spring breakers). The former process involves acting on internalized expectations, while the latter involves an external procedure in which friends take action on each other's behalf. Pacts can also be seen in relation to intentions, which had a significant influence for women. Both intentions and pacts were formed before going to Surfer's Paradise and reflected plans and expectations prior to experiencing the event. Thus, for women, it appears that prior plans and peer influences on-site carried a strong, combined influence. For men, however, the influence of peers was restricted to on-site role modeling with neither pacts nor intentions producing a statistically significant effect.
The effect of situational conditions and experiences as hypothesized in earlier research that developed the situational disinhibition hypothesis (Eiser & Ford, 1995; Ford & Eiser, 1996) was born out in the multivariate regressions for both men and women, although it took different forms. For women, having certain experiences and/or participating in certain activities at Surfer's Paradise had an additive effect with other influencing factors. As experiences and participation increased, the likelihood of casual sex increased. For men, however, these experiences interacted with prior casual sex experience. For men with no prior casual sex experience, Surfer's Paradise activities and experiences did not have a statistically significant effect on engaging in casual sex. However, for those who had engaged in casual sex in the past, activities and experiences did have an effect, and in this case it was considerably stronger than the effect on women. By modeling the combined and interactive effects of what others have called spillover and situational disinhibition, the TIB showed the stronger effect of situation. For women, situational disinhibition (measured as experience and role modeling) combines with prior plans (intentions and pacts) to determine whether casual sex will occur. The effect of prior experience (or spillover) evidenced in the bivariate relationships represented in Table 3 disappeared in multivariate analysis, suggesting that, for women, prior plans and current situations displaced prior experiences and habits in their effect. For men, however, both prior experiences and habits (spillover) and the situational conditions and experiences of schoolies week (situational disinhibition) had strong influences, with neither of the prior planning measures (intentions or pacts) having a significant beating on whether or not casual sex occurred. Women appeared more embedded within the influences of their peer groups and were more likely to hold to their plans, while men were influenced by both their past experiences and their peers but not by planning. It is of note that both men and women were influenced by the experiences and activities of schoolies week. The results for the effect of situational influences and prior casual sex experience resembled those of the Canadian spring break study (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998) and, when the bivariate relationships are considered, they were also similar to Eiser and Ford's results in the UK (Eiser & Ford, 1995; Ford & Eiser, 1996).
Finally, we should not lose sight of the women and men for whom casual sex at Surfer's Paradise was either their initiation to coital activity or to casual partnering, and the nearly 45% of women and 55% of men who did have prior sexual intercourse experience but did not engage in any sexual intercourse activity at Surfer's Paradise. The experiences of these "deviant" cases clearly warrant further inquiry.
Studies of sexual activities, particularly those engaged in during vacations, continue to be plagued by a common set of limitations: voluntary samples, the absence of longitudinal designs, reliance on self-report, and the absence of partner data. Research on young adult vacation sex in the United States (Apostolopoulos et al., 1999; Smeaton & Josiam, 1996), in the United Kingdom (Eiser & Ford, 1995), and in Canada (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998), and prior research in Australia (Smith & Rosenthal, 1997), have all used volunteer samples. Obtaining a random sample of vacationers presents considerable methodological challenges, which is why none of the research to date has accomplished such sampling. However, the very high response rates obtained in several of these studies (e.g., Eiser & Ford, 1995; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998) and the remarkable consistency in the findings of all of these studies, despite differences in cultures and in the ages of vacationers, lends support to their conclusions.
The major barrier to testing all levels of models such as the TIB is the difficulty of collecting longitudinal data. Even when confining our attention to a single level, as in this study, without longitudinal data we can never be sure whether reports of prior intentions or activities are valid or merely reflective of compensatory redefinitions of the past to justify the present. However, designing longitudinal studies poses exceptional problems for research on vacations and vacationers. Vacationers are drawn together in a vacation setting from a diversity of locations where only a minority of inhabitants select a particular vacation destination. In addition, the decision to take a vacation such as spring break or schoolies week is often made close to the time of departure (Mewhinney et al., 1995). Each of these factors poses difficulties in obtaining a sample prior to the vacation and following it longitudinally. One type of longitudinal design may be worthy of consideration, however. This is a design which collects data at different times during a vacation. A diary or repeat survey technique could be used during the vacation period. Such a design would help in establishing the time ordering of variables such as vacation experiences and sexual activity and would make it possible to understand the progression of events and experiences. It would not, however, increase the validity of information on prior intentions or experiences occurring prior to the vacation.
Sexuality research (including all the studies cited in this paper) relies heavily on self-reports of activities and perceptions of others' activities (e.g., peer role modeling). Self-report may be particularly problematic when making distinctions between types of activities (e.g., fooling around vs. intercourse) or types of relationships (casual vs. known partner), or in judging the actions of others (e.g., whether friends have engaged in intercourse), since perceptions of how behaviors fit into these specific categories vary, even when definitions are provided. Consequently, the precise size of coefficients based on self-report data must be interpreted with caution, particularly when personal interpretations cannot be established. The similarity in the findings of this study and others conducted in similar settings suggests that although the size of the effect may lack precision, the presence of effects is confirmed.
Finally, sexual intercourse is a coupled activity. This means that intentions, plans, and desires may not always be realizable. Consequently, coefficients for personal characteristics and experiences of those who engaged in any form of sexual activity are likely to be attenuated and must be recognized as applicable to those who found a willing partner. Similarly, conclusions drawn for those who did not engage in a form of sexual activity must be interpreted recognizing that lack of activity may be as much the result of absence of a partner as absence of determinants.
Much research on the sexual activity of youths has been atheoretical. At best, researchers have inductively developed salient concepts such as spillover, situational disinhibition, or liminality as a way of explaining what they see in their data. This has produced a wide array of competing, complementary, and similar concepts which are neither integrated into a coherent model nor tested. The research reported here has, instead, tested an established theoretical framework. In this and other research (e.g., Apostolopoulos et al., 1999; Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998), the Triandis model has demonstrated its effectiveness in incorporating two commonly cited correlates of tourists' sexual behavior, namely spillover and situational disinhibition, and in testing their relative and combined influence on casual sex as part of recreational travel.
The results of this project suggest several future directions for research. The first, and most obvious, is to continue testing and expanding this and other theoretical models as explanations for sexual activity. The second is to recognize that sexual activity and partnering take a diversity of forms and occur in numerous social contexts. Young adults today have access to a greater variety of settings and contexts than ever before as a result of the commercialization of leisure, the increase in the mobility of youths, and the combination of the postponement of marriage and earlier age of sexual initiation (Maticka-Tyndale, 2001). To date, most research has ignored both the social and relational contexts in which sexual activity takes place, and therefore is woefully inadequate to understanding the sexual realities of today's youth. Expanding research in this direction requires the further development of appropriate theories. This theory building should take into account what are currently deviant cases in research findings. For example, research must consider those who "should have" engaged in casual sex based on the presence of predictors but who did not, as well as those who "should not have" engaged and did. Expansion of research also requires application of more complex designs such as longitudinal data collection, use of surveys at multiple time points, and use of diaries.
Research has consistently demonstrated that in Western nations, youths today are sexually active at an earlier age, with a larger number of partners, and in a greater diversity of relationship and social contexts than in the past. Youths continue to experience unwanted pregnancies and unwanted sexual encounters, and they also face rising rates of sexually transmitted infections, some of which have devastating long-term sequelae, others of which can result in chronically poor health or death, and all of which are costly to health care systems. To address the practical problems faced by sexually active youths, we need a better understanding of the sexual interactions of youth and the factors that influence them. This research begins to provide some of that understanding and sets an example for additional theory-driven research.
Table 1. Correlation Matrix for All Variables Used in Multivariate Analysis Pact CSSP Ever CS Intent SPexp no sex CSSP 1.00 .40 ** .31 ** .43 ** -.05 Ever CS .30 ** 1.00 .34 ** .42 ** .01 Intent .48 ** .32 ** 1.00 .38 ** -.12 ** SPexp .35 ** .27 ** .41 ** 1.00 -.01 Pact no sex -.13 ** -.02 -.15 ** .04 1.00 Pact sex .34 ** .19 ** .32 ** .25 ** .05 Role model .44 ** .26 ** .32 ** .41 ** -.12 ** Ever CS X SPexp .20 ** .35 ** .15 ** -.13 ** -.11 Intent X SPexp .30 ** .13 ** .33 ** -.21 ** -.15 ** Ever Pact Role CS x Intent x sex model SPexp SPexp CSSP .28 ** .39 ** .49 ** .40 ** Ever CS .26 ** .24 ** .57 ** .29 ** Intent .31 ** .16 ** .18 ** .28 ** SPexp .38 ** .40 ** .38 ** .43 ** Pact no sex .05 .01 -.02 -.06 Pact sex 1.00 .22 ** .23 ** .20 ** Role model .19 ** 1.00 .21 ** .19 ** Ever CS X SPexp .20 ** .11 ** 1.00 .55 ** Intent X SPexp .15 ** .10 ** .40 ** 1.00 Note. Correlations for female schoolies are below the diagonal and for males are above the diagonal. CSSP = engaged in casual sex while at Surfer's Paradise (0 = no, 1 = yes). Ever CS = ever engaged in casual sex prior to this vacation (0 = no, 1 = yes). Intent = intend to engage in sexual intercourse on this vacation (0 = no, 1 = yes). SPexp = scalar measure of amount of participation in Surfer's Paradise experiences conducive to sexual activity. Pact no sex = formed a pact with friends not to engage in sexual intercourse at Surfer's Paradise (0 = no, 1 = yes). Pact sex = formed a pact with friends to engage in sexual intercourse at Surfer's Paradise (0 = no, 1 = yes). Role model = proportion of friends who engaged in sexual intercourse while at Surfer's Paradise. Ever CS X SPexp = interaction between ever CS and SPexp. Intent X SPexp = interaction between intent and SPexp. ** p < .01. Table 2. Percentage of Men and Women Reporting Sexual and Surfers Paradise (SP) Experiences and Intentions Chi- t Men Women square value Prior sexual experience % with previous coital experience 64.0% 59.8% *** 18.84 % coitus within 24 hrs of 64.4% 33.4% *** 41.95 meeting partner (a) Mean number of partners (a) 3.70 2.43 (+++) 6.57 % intending to engage in coitus at SP 58.1% 18.0% *** 216.88 Pacts or agreements with friends % with pact not to engage in coitus 11.1% 26.6% *** 48.34 % with pact to engage in coitus 38.0% 7.9% *** 177.65 Perceived peer sexual behavior % who believe their peers engaged in intercourse while at SP 71.0% 43.0% *** 37.35 Mean proportion of peers believed to engage in intercourse at SP 0.24 0.14 (+++) 8.01 Sexual activity at SP % fooled around with no intercourse 60.0% 45.0% *** 29.95 Mean number of partners in fooling around (a) 2.81 2.50 (+) 2.35 Coital activity at SP with someone dated or knew before 9.8% 12.6% 1.52 with someone met at SP 24.8% 11.0% 34.83 No coital activity 65.5% 76.4% *** 19.00 Mean number of casual intercourse partners (a) 2.67 1.43 (+++) 4.22 % engaging in casual sex who used condoms at last intercourse 79.2% 71.8% * 4.27 % who engaged in at least one of fooling around or coitus 68.5% 55.9% *** 22.43 Alcohol consumption at SP Mean number of times drunk 3.84 3.47 (++) 3.10 % drunk at last intercourse (a) 52.5% 36.5% *** 9.69 Surfers Paradise experience 2.52 2.34 (+++) 7.14 Note. Sample comprises 570 men and 776 women. (a) Numbers calculated based on those who reported this activity. * Differences between percentages significant at p < .05 (chi-square test). *** Differences between percentages significant at p < .001 (chi-square test). (+) Differences between means significant at p < .05 (t test). (++) Differences between means significant at p < .01 (t test). (+++) Differences between means significant at p < .001 (t test). Table 3. Percentages and Mean Scores of Predictor Variables Used in Logistic Regression, for Those With No Coital Activity and With Coital Activity With a Casual Partner Coital activity at surfers paradise Variable No coital Casual Chi- t activity sex square value Women Days already at Surfer's Paradise 5.19 5.58 1.76 Intend to engage in casual sex 10.5% 65.4% *** 166.00 Prior intercourse experience (a) 44.5% 85.5% *** 45.54 Prior casual sex experience 16.0% 41.1% *** 51.49 Surfers Paradise experiences 2.28 2.80 (+++) 10.76 Role model .10 .34 (+++) 11.97 Pacts formed with friends No casual sex 29.4% 12.2% *** 11.55 Casual sex 4.9% 26.8% *** 68.48 Men Days already at Surfer's Paradise 4.63 5.32 (+++) 3.52 Intend to engage in casual sex 49.1% 83.1% *** 53.66 Prior intercourse experience (a) 54.4% 84.0% *** 44.33 Prior casual sex experience 28.4% 69.6% *** 92.64 Surfers Paradise experiences 2.36 2.89 (+++) 12.20 Role model .17 .38 (+++) 8.73 Pacts formed with friends No casual sex 11.7% 8.2% 1.37 Casual sex 29.9% 60.7% *** 37.70 Note. This table excludes data for schoolies who engaged in coitus with someone they knew or were dating. Sample comprises 586 women and 362 men who did not engage in coital activity, and 84 women and 137 men who engaged in casual sex. (a) Not used as a predictor variable in multivariate analysis. *** p < .001 (Chi-square test). (+++) p < .001 (t test). Table 4. Hierarchical Logistic Regression Coefficients for Casual Sex (a) on Predictors From Two Models, Women Model 1: TIB main effects Odds Partial (antilog) Log odds corr. Prior experience (b) (past) 1.86 0.62 0.05 Intentions (c) (intent) 7.58 2.02 *** 0.30 Surfers Paradise experience (SPExp) (d) 5.14 1.64 *** 0.20 Pact not to engage in casual sex (e) Pact to engage in casual sex (f) Role model (g) Constant -6.73 *** Model 3: Enhanced TIB Odds Partial (antilog) Log odds corr. Prior experience (b) (past) 1.52 0.42 0.00 Intentions (c) (intent) 5.97 1.79 ** 0.27 Surfers Paradise experience (SPExp) (d) 4.16 1.42 ** 0.17 Pact not to engage in casual sex (e) 0.40 0.93 * 0.07 Pact to engage in casual sex (f) 1.70 0.53 0.00 Role model (g) 62.42 4.13 *** 0.24 Constant -5.93 *** Note. N = 577. All coefficients are maximum-likelihood estimates. Model 2, with interactions between SPExp and past and SPExp and intent, did not significantly improve the fit of the model and interaction effects were not significant; therefore, it is not reported here. SPSS logistic regression calculated that Models 1 and 3 correctly classified 86% and 87% respectively of the cases. Chi-square improvement for Model 1 over baseline (with no variables entered) was 108.07 (df = 3, p < .001). Chi-square improvement for Model 2 over Model 1 was 5.22 (df = 3, p < .10). This Model was not retained because the improvement was not significant. Chi-square improvement for Model 3 (without interactions) over Model 1 was 25.58 (df = 3, p < .001). (a) 0 = no coital activity; 1 = coitus with a partner met at Surfer's Paradise. (b) 0 = no prior casual sex experience; 1 = prior casual sex experience, (c) 0 = no intention to engage in casual sex at Surfer's Paradise; 1 = intend to engage in casual sex at Surfer's Paradise. (d) Centered on the mean value, (e) 0 = no pact; 1 = pact not to engage in casual sex. (f) 0 = no pact; 1 = pact to engage in casual sex. (g) Measured as proportion of friends who engaged in casual sex at Surfer's Paradise. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001. Table 5. Hierarchical Logistic Regression Coefficients for Casual Sex (a) on Predictors From Three Models, Men Model 1: TIB main effects Odds Log Partial (antilog) odds corr. Prior experience (b) (past) 2.91 1.07 *** 0.16 Intentions (c) (intent) 2.33 0.85 ** 0.10 Surfers Paradise experience (SPExp) (d) 10.19 2.32 *** 0.30 SPExp X Past SPExp X Intent Pact not to engage in casual sex (e) Pact to engage in casual sex (f) Role model (g) Constant -8.11 ** Model 2: TIB with interactions Odds Log Partial (antilog) odds corr. Prior experience (b) (past) 0.00 -7.20 ** -0.14 Intentions (c) (intent) 1.52 0.42 0.00 Surfers Paradise experience (SPExp) (d) 3.13 1.15 0.05 SPExp X Past 19.49 2.97 ** 0.17 SPExp X Intent 1.17 0.16 0.00 Pact not to engage in casual sex (e) Pact to engage in casual sex (f) Role model (g) Constant -4.92 ** Model 3: Enhanced TIB Odds Log Partial (antilog) odds corr. Prior experience (b) (past) 0.00 -7.09 ** -0.13 Intentions (c) (intent) 1.57 0.39 0.00 Surfers Paradise experience (SPExp) (d) 2.31 0.84 0.00 SPExp X Past 18.23 2.90 ** 0.16 SPExp X Intent 1.20 0.18 0.00 Pact not to engage in casual sex (e) 1.00 0.00 0.00 Pact to engage in casual sex (f) 0.84 -0.17 0.00 Role model (g) 10.74 2.37 *** 0.20 Constant -4.70 ** Note. N = 462. All coefficients are maximum-likelihood estimates. SPSS logistic regression calculated that Models 1, 2, and 3 correctly classified 80%, 80%, and 81% of the cases respectively. Chi-square improvement for Model 1 over baseline (with no variables entered) was 108.81 (df = 3, p < .001). Chi-square improvement for Model 2 over Model 1 was 12.47 (df = 3, p < .01). Chi-square improvement for Model 3 over Model 2 was 13.02 (df = 3, p < .01). (a) 0 = no coital activity; 1 = coitus with a partner met at Surfer's Paradise. (b) 0 = no prior casual sex experience; 1 = prior casual sex experience. (c) 0 = no intention to engage in casual sex at Surfer's Paradise; 1 = intend to engage in casual sex at Surfer's Paradise. (d) Centered on the mean value. (e) 0 = no pact; 1 = pact not to engage in casual sex. (f) 0 = no pact; 1 = pact to engage in casual sex. (g) Measured as proportion of friends who engaged in casual sex at Surfer's Paradise. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001.
(1) Casual sex is defined as sex with a new partner without expectation of a continuing relationship.
(2) The school year runs from January until November in Australia so those who described themselves as "just graduated" would have completed high school in the weeks preceding schoolies vacation.
(3) In their earlier study of schoolies, Smith and Rosenthal (1997) also found that the length of time on vacation had a significant relationship with casual sex.
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