Background: Past research has demonstrated a link between alcohol use and risky sexual behavior; the processes that may underlie this association remain largely unexplored, however. Recent studies suggest that personality traits such as excitement seeking, impulsivity, and social deviance proneness may play an important role in both behaviors.
Methods: A structural model of the association between disinhibited personality traits, alcohol use, and risky sexual behavior (sex with strangers/one-night stands) was tested. We recruited a sample of 410 college students that reported a wide range of scores on self-reported measures of disinhibition. We hypothesized that disinhibited personality characteristics would be primarily responsible for the association between risky sexual behavior and alcohol problems. A third-variable model was proposed to demonstrate this association.
Results: The results suggested that the relationship between alcohol use and risky sexual behavior is best explained by their common association with excitement seeking. There was a significant correlation between alcohol use and risky sexual behavior when considered alone. However, when controlling for the effects of personality, the correlation was nonsignificant. In a final model, both excitement seeking and social deviance proneness were found to be significantly associated with alcohol use, and excitement seeking was significantly related to risky sexual behavior.
Conclusions: Results suggest the relationship between alcohol use and risky sexual behavior is best characterized by a common association with excitement seeking.