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Allison Schimmel-Bristow, Rachel L. Grover, Ph.D.

Emotion Regulation: Predictor of Risky Sexual Behavior and Unwanted Sexual Activity

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Engaging in sexual activity is common among young adults and individuals 18 to 24 report the highest rate of negative sexual consequences (Mosher, Chandra, & Jones, 2005; Lewis, Litt, Cronce, Blayney, & Gilmore, 2014). Risky sexual behavior is defined as any sexual activity that could potentially lead to negative consequences, including unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and negative emotional or psychological issues (Cooper, 2002). Researchers have considered several predictors of risky sexual behavior including substance use, personality, and attachment. One potential new predictor variable that may be associated with risky sexual behavior among college students is the inability to effectively regulate emotion, specifically, maladaptive emotion regulation. Maladaptive emotion regulation is often referred to as emotion dysregulation and occurs when individuals do not process or use emotional information in a helpful way (e.g. lack of awareness of emotional responses and nonacceptance of emotional responses; Gratz and Roemer, 2004). The current study investigates emotion regulation as a predictor of college student sexual risk taking behavior. This study hypothesizes that difficulty in emotional regulation will increase likelihood of engagement in risky sexual behaviors. In addition, it is hypothesized that this relation will be moderated by gender with the relation being stronger for women than men. The target sample size for the study will be 126 participants from Loyola University Maryland. Participants will answer three surveys including a demographic survey, the Difficulties in Emotional Regulation Scale (DERs; Gratz and Roemer, 2004), and risky sexual behavior measure. Multiple regression analyses will be used to test the relation between emotional regulation and risky sexual behavior as well as the potential moderating effect of gender.  Results will likely have both theoretical and clinical implications.

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