Relations Between Adolescent Sensation Seeking and Risky Sexual Behaviors Across Sex, Race, and Age: A Meta-Analysis. Academic Article uri icon


  • Sensation seeking (SS)-the seeking of novel and intense sensations or experiences and the willingness to take risks for the sake of such experiences-has been shown to be related to various risky sexual behaviors (RSBs) in areas such as multiple sexual partners, condom use, and sexual initiation. The aims of the current meta-analysis were to examine (1) how SS relates to specific RSBs in adolescents and (2) how the overall relationship between SS and RSB differs across sex, race, and age. Overall, a total of 40 studies met the inclusion criteria for our meta-analysis examining the relationship between SS and RSB, contributing 102 effect sizes. RSB variables included unprotected sex; multiple sexual partners; hazardous sexual activity; sexual initiation; virginity status; and history of sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnosis. Moderating effects of sex, race, and age were also examined. The overall mean effect size of the correlational relationship between adolescent SS and RSB was statistically significant, as were the mean effect sizes of the relationships between SS and RSB subgroups, except for history of STD diagnosis. Race and age did not significantly moderate the overall relationship between SS and RSB; however, results indicated that SS and RSB relations were stronger in females compared to males. Our findings suggest that adolescents with elevations in SS tendencies tend to engage in more RSBs compared to their peers with lower levels of SS, increasing their risk of unplanned pregnancy and STD acquisition.

published proceedings

  • Arch Sex Behav

altmetric score

  • 3.7

author list (cited authors)

  • Harris, B., McCredie, M. N., Truong, T., Regan, T., Thompson, C. G., Leach, W., & Fields, S. A.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Harris, Bethany||McCredie, Morgan N||Truong, Tiffany||Regan, Timothy||Thompson, Christopher G||Leach, Walker||Fields, Sherecce A

publication date

  • January 2023