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Study Finds that Students Tend to Protect Female Friends from Risky Sexual Behavior while Drunk

Posted in Research

Binge drinking is a major problem among college students across the nation, and heavy drinking can often lead to risky sexual behaviors, including having unprotected sex, which can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, and emotional distress. Excessive drinking also raises the risk of sexual victimization, especially among young women.

A new study has found that college students are more likely to protect their female friends from engaging in risky sexual behavior after a night of drinking. The study was based on research collected through a program called Let’s Talk About It (LTAI), which is a scenario-based simulation of alcohol-related decision making. A trained facilitator presents students with five scenarios in a classroom setting and asks them to choose how they would react from a set of three options: a high-risk option, a moderate-risk option, and a low-risk option.

The students answered anonymously using clickers, and a summary of the responses was projected onto a screen through a bar graph, showing the group’s answers. Then the facilitator discussed the answers with the group.

Three-quarters of the participants said they would try to talk a female friend out of going home with a new male acquaintance or make sure their friend got home safely. 

Three communication strategies were reported, including reminding their friend that his or her decision could lead to negative consequences; tricking their friend into leaving the situation; and directly confronting their friend.

Study author Linda C. Lederman, dean of social sciences in the College of Liberal Arts at Arizona State University and the executive director of ASU’s Institute for Social Science, said that how well people know their friends and the male acquaintance plays an important role in their decisions. If more than one person knew the male acquaintance, friends were more likely to allow their female friends to go home with him.

Lisa Menegatos, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, said that their study shows that a classroom setting can be a great place for students to develop communication skills that will be helpful in all areas of their lives.

Aaron Hess, assistant professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, was also an author of the study, which was published in the journal Communication Education.

Sources: Communication Currents, Friends Don’t Let Friends Hook Up Drunk

Science Daily, All May Not Be as It Seems: College Students, Alcohol and Sex, August 24, 2010