Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Virtual Cheating Hearts: Extradyadic and Poaching Interactions among Adolescents with Links to Online Sexual Activities

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Virtual Cheating Hearts: Extradyadic and Poaching Interactions among Adolescents with Links to Online Sexual Activities

Article excerpt

Extradyadic sexual interactions are a leading cause of relationship strife and break-ups and are known to cause extreme distress for adolescents. Given the rapid uptake of communication technologies among adolescents, the current study was designed to examine the role of online sexual activities and technology use on adolescents' reports of extradyadic kissing, that is, both romantically kissing another partner while in a relationship ("cheating") and romantically kissing a person known to be in a relationship with someone else ("poaching"). Online surveys were collected from 268 male and female adolescents (15-19 years of age). One-fifth (21%) of participants reported extradyadic kissing, and one-quarter (26%) reported romantically kissing someone who they knew was in a relationship with someone else. Sensation seeking emerged as a key personality trait relating to higher odds of both types of extradyadic interactions for male and female participants. A history of having sent an explicit sexual photo was associated with far greater odds of poaching behaviours, especially for boys. Engaging in online sex chat dramatically increased girls' odds (but not boys' odds) of reporting cheating and poaching interactions. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for adolescents' psychological and relational health and for work on relationship skills development.

Keywords: extradyadic interactions, Internet, online sexual activity, adolescence, sexual behaviour

In line with the rapid uptake of computer-based communication technologies among youth, recent studies have shown that between 25% and 70% of youth aged 10 to 17 years report using the Internet to seek information on sexual material, form or maintain romantic relationships, or engage in online sexual gratification (Brown & L'Engle, 2010; Lo & Wei, 2005; Mitchell, Finkelhor, & Wolak, 2003; Peter & Valkenburg, 2006; Rideout, 2001). Sending nude or seminude photographs or raunchy texts ("sexting") are increasingly used as modern forms of flirting to express or confirm interest in another person (Baumgartner, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2010). Adolescents also report the use of chat rooms or online dating services to connect with others (Pujazon-Zazik, Manasse, & Orrell-Valente, 2012), as well as high rates of access and exposure to online pornography (Peter & Valkenburg, 2006), a free and easily accessible source of sexual information and arousing imagery. Research examining the shifts in adolescents' online and offline interactions has had trouble keeping up with the dramatic changes in technology use among youth and the impact that technology use has on their intimate relationships.

The intimate relationships of young people generally have garnered a great deal of research attention of late, however. In particular, a growing body of research reveals greater acceptance of more casual sexual encounters among adolescents and young adults than in previous decades (Eisenberg, Ackard, Resnick, & Neumark-Sztainer, 2009; Lehmiller, VanderDrift, & Kelly, 2011; Luo & Zhang, 2009). Despite this trend, strong social norms persist against extradyadic sexual encounters, that is, interactions outside of one's primary relationship, especially for women (Feldman, Cauffman, Jensen, & Arnett, 2000; Marks, 2008). Most occasions of extradyadic sex occur without the partner's consent, violate expectations of sexual exclusivity, and typically are not known to the "betrayed" partner (Feldman & Cauffman, 1999). For example, among male and female adolescents (14-19 years of age) who believed that their partner had no other intercourse partners, 16% and 37% of their partners, respectively reported having concurrent sexual partners (Lenoir, Adler, Borzekowski, Tschann, & Ellen, 2006).

Extradyadic sex is fairly prevalent among adults in Western samples, with rates ranging from 12% to 63%, and higher rates consistently found among men compared to women (Schmitt et al. …

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