Online Sexual Experiences Predict Subsequent Sexual Health and Victimization Outcomes Among Female Adolescents: A Latent Class Analysis

J Youth Adolesc. 2019 May;48(5):837-849. doi: 10.1007/s10964-019-00995-3. Epub 2019 Feb 18.


Adolescents' online sexual experiences (e.g., pornography use, sexual chatting, sexualized social media use, and nude image exchange) provide a new context for sexual socialization. Traditionally, online sexual experiences are often aggregated averages, which neglect their complexity and fail to identify individual differences in the experience. Moreover, the lack of longitudinal research in this area has failed to determine if these experiences predict later offline sexual health and violence outcomes. An analysis of two waves of surveys completed by ethnically and socioeconomically diverse female adolescents (N = 296; 49% maltreated; aged 14-16 years) participating in a larger cross-sequential study was conducted to address these gaps. Established latent classes from the prerequisite study of online sexual experiences at Time 1 were Online Abstinent (low probability of any online sexual experiences), Online Inclusive (high probability of all online sexual experiences), Attractors (high probability of attracting attention from others), and Seekers (high probability of seeking out sexual content and interaction). Class membership uniquely predicted HIV risk, number of physically violent romantic partners, and the occurrence of sexual assault at Time 2. Although membership in risker online sexual experience classes predicted later offline risk and victimization, this was especially true for maltreated participants. These findings demonstrate the advantages of examining online sexual experiences in a way that emphasizes their complexity and individual differences in influential susceptibility.

Keywords: Maltreatment; Media; Pornography; Sexting; Sexual violence; Social media.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adolescent Health*
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Erotica
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Latent Class Analysis
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Health*
  • Violence / psychology