Sexual Discounting and High-Risk Behaviour

Youth under 25 show substantial sexual and substance use risk behaviors. One factor associated with risk behaviors is delay discounting, the devaluation of delayed outcomes. A study published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology determined if delay discounting for sexual outcomes is related to sexual risk and substance use among 18–24 year olds. Females (70) and males (56) completed the Sexual Discounting Task, which assessed their likelihood of having unprotected immediate sex versus waiting for sex with a condom, at various delays, with 4 hypothetical sexual partners selected from photographs: the person they most wanted to have sex with, least wanted to have sex with, judged most likely to have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and judged least likely to have an STI. They also completed instruments assessing HIV knowledge, sexual behaviors, substance use, risk attitudes, inhibition, impulsivity, and sensation-seeking. Condom use likelihood generally decreased with increasing delay. Preference for immediate, unprotected sex was greater for partners whom participants most (vs. least) wanted to have sex with and judged least (vs. most) likely to have an STI. Preference for immediate, unprotected sex in the “most want to have sex with” and “least likely to have an STI” conditions was related to greater lifetime risky sexual partners, lifetime number of unique substances used, disregard of social approval/danger, disinhibition, and sensation/excitement-seeking. Males showed greater likelihood of unprotected sex than females when condom use was undelayed, but delay similarly affected condom use between sexes. Delay discounting should be considered in strategies to minimize youth risk behavior.

For the abstract

           

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