A recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics shows college students prefer short no-strings-attached relationships that are short and sexual rather than more committed, long-term relationships.
USC’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services’s yearly national health assessment reports, however, do not reflect an increase in the number of sexual partners for undergraduates or graduates.
“Our data would show that the number of partners has not changed in the last 10 years,” said Paula Swinford, director of HPPS. “As to the quality of relationships, my sense is that in general it is difficult in this day and age to invest time into relationships.”
For some students, casual relationships are easier because individuals can focus on their own lives without having to be responsible for another person.
“Hooking up is definitely more common because it’s easier,” said Natalie Reyes, a junior majoring in international relations. “A lot of people are focusing on developing their careers so it’s easier not to have responsibilities with someone.”
Swinford said she does not think favoring no-strings-attached relationships is a college-specific issue and is not surprised students aren’t looking for serious relationships while they are young.
“You’re not financially on your feet and the age of marriage is trending up for both men and women,” Swinford said.
Some students say they have seen a tendency to engage in casual sex at USC.
“There’s a hookup culture at USC, and that’s why there is a lack of commitment,” said Amy Rasplicka, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering.”
Anais Ziaemohseni, a freshman majoring in fine arts, said she has found casual hookups to be especially prevalent among college freshmen.
“Many [freshmen] consider it a part of the college experience and that if they are in a committed relationship they are missing out,” Ziaemohseni said. “Many people have just gotten out of committed relationships because they’ve come to college and don’t want to be tied down and miss out on social activities.”
Although the number of partners might not be increasing at USC, research conducted by USC faculty in the psychology department shows college students like to have casual relationships or date for at least one month while in college.
Lynn Miller, a USC professor of communication and psychology, has been conducting ongoing research in which she and her colleagues have found that 98 percent of college students would like to find a sexually exclusive partner at some point in their lives. For college students, however, this could be anywhere from five to 10 years in the future.
“In the interim, although some students say they’d like to have casual relationships, more typically men and women say they’d like to ideally date in relationships over one month,” Miller said.
Miller calls this “promiscuously seeking,” meaning that before adults seek a romantic partner they explore their options and engage in sexual relationships with a number of people before choosing a partner to build an emotional relationship with.
Both Miller and Swinford agree more promiscuous and casual relationships could increase the potential exposure and spread of sexually transmitted diseases if safe-sex practices are not used.
“The more partners you have, the more chance for exposure,” Swinford said.
According to Miller, past relationships can provide both positives and negatives for determining future relationships.
“[Past relationships] provide valuable experiences in learning how to be a good relationship partner. They can help us learn and grow in important ways if we examine and understand our choices,” Miller said. “On the other hand, bad relationship experiences can provide emotional baggage that individuals need to work through so that it doesn’t inadvertently negatively affect their future relationships.”