An Empirical Examination of Hookup Definitions Across the Literature, 2000–2019

Jacqueline Bible, Kristin Matera, Brad van Eeden-Moorefield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There has been a longstanding debate about what constitutes hooking up. To date, little research has analyzed how hookups are being defined such that the field can foster consistency across definitions. To inform this debate, we conducted a content analysis of 122 empirical articles across disciplines (e.g., human sexuality, public health) from 2000 to 2019 by systematically coding conceptual definitions of hooking up contained in the articles using five commonly discussed dimensions of hooking up (behaviors, nature of partner relationship, span of hookup interaction, frequency of hookup behavior, and level of romantic commitment expectation). Unspecified sexual intercourse (52.5%) was the most frequently identified behavior in definitions. The majority of hookup definitions did not mention the nature of partner relationship (e.g., acquaintance, friend), the duration of the hookup interaction, or the frequency of hookup behavior. Additionally, most conceptual definitions (82.0%) mentioned that the relationship was uncommitted, but only half discussed the level of romantic commitment expectations. Overall, most conceptual definitions relied on behaviors rather than all five dimensions, resulting in broad and non-descript definitions of hookups. We suggest that future hookup definitions explicitly reference behaviors, nature of partner relationship, span of hookup interaction, frequency of hookup behavior, and level of romantic commitment expectation to provide clarity, comparability, and validity across future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Casual sex
  • Content analysis
  • Friends with benefits
  • Hookup

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