Sexting prevalence and correlates: a systematic literature review

Clin Psychol Rev. 2014 Feb;34(1):44-53. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.10.007. Epub 2013 Nov 5.


Despite considerable controversy and speculation regarding sexting behaviour and its associated risks, to date there has been no integration and analysis of empirical literature on this topic. To collect and synthesise findings of the prevalence of sexting, its correlates, and the context in which it occurs, a systematic search of databases was conducted. Thirty-one studies, reporting on sexting prevalence and a diverse range of related variables, met inclusion criteria. The estimated mean prevalence weighted by sample size was calculated, with trends indicating sexting is more prevalent amongst adults than adolescents, older age is predictive of sexting for adolescents but not adults, and more individuals report receiving sexts than sending them. The correlates of sexting behaviour were grouped in terms of demographic variables, sexual and sexual risk behaviours, attitudes towards sexting, perceived outcomes of sexting, motivations for sexting, mental health and well-being variables, and attachment dimensions. Findings are discussed in terms of the trends indicated by the data, which provided substantiation that sexting behaviour is associated with numerous behavioural, psychological, and social factors. Limitations of the current research literature and future directions are also presented.

Keywords: Attachment; Attitudes; Mental health; Sexting; Sexting behaviour; Sexual risk behaviour.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cell Phone
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Text Messaging / statistics & numerical data*