Millennials prefer traditional dating to one-night stands, study says

May 24, 2014, 10:50 AM | Updated: 10:50 am

Forget the notions that today's college-age adults are more interested in “hooking up” than in traditional dating and that they're doing it more often than previous waves of college students. According to new research, neither is true.

Researchers from the University of Portland decided to test the media idea of a “hookup culture,” which it described as one marked by sexual encounters without thought that the relationships might endure.

The researchers focused on those ages 18-25 who had completed at least a year of college, comparing two “waves” of the General Social Survey (1988-1996 vs. 2004-2012), and wrote, “We found respondents from the current era did not report more sexual partners since age 18, more frequent sex or more partners during the past year than respondents from the earlier era.”

Their findings are published in the Journal of Sex Research.

They did find that among the later group's sexually active segment, an intimate relationship with a spouse or regular partner was slightly less likely. “These modest changes are consistent with cultural shifts in the 'scripts' and terminology surrounding sexuality,” the study said. “We find no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would indicate a new or pervasive pattern of non-relationship sex among contemporary college students.”

“In fact, most people are still having sex with a regular partner rather than with random people,” said Time magazine. “According to the new study, 78.2 percent of those recently surveyed reported that their sexual partner was either a spouse or a significant other, compared to 84.5 percent in the survey from the ’80s and ’90s. The researchers chalk up the differences in responses to the earlier set of people surveyed containing a higher proportion of married people. This isn’t surprising news since marriage rates are going down and people are getting married later.”

Others are reporting the story of Millennials and young love somewhat differently. In April, a story for WTVM began: “According to clinical psychologist and co-owner of E-harmony Neil Clark Warren, 50 percent of single people say they haven't been on a date in at least two years. Recent studies suggest the millennial generation is no longer interested in finding long-term love, earning them the title 'the hookup generation.'”

Nicole Weaver on YourTango.com lists six reasons she thinks hookup culture is a myth. “According to Donna Freitas' book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled and Confused About Intimacy, 41 percent of American college students feel sad or depressed about casual sex. This is due to a real desire for a monogamist relationship instead. Sad, but definitely a phase for some before finding the one,” she wrote.

A report on The Science of Relationships discussed findings from a different study: “In response to the prompt 'All in all, everything being equal, I would prefer…' both men and women reported that they would rather have a traditional dating relationship than simply a hook up. This shows that when given the general choice, men and women both prefer traditional dating, though women prefer it more than men. Similarly, when men and women stated they were specifically looking for a long-term partner, both would rather date than hook up. The science here suggests that the perception that college students would rather hook up is simply wrong.”

That study was published in 2010 in the journal “Sex Roles.”

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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Millennials prefer traditional dating to one-night stands, study says