Identity Theory and College Hookup Culture

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Virginia Tech

Hooking up can carry a vast array of definitions, embody a multitude of implications, and is still somehow an almost unavoidable part of college life. The present study applies identity theory to the relatively new culture of sex and dating at college, more predominantly known as hookup culture, in order to examine the types of identities that might affect hookup behaviors. Identity theory is a particularly useful framework to understanding hookup culture because of its ability to examine how the individual (college student) situates oneself in the larger social environment (college). This study also incorporates commitment to identity as well as how certain meanings reflect that identity. Utilizing two waves of data from the "College Identity Study"—collected between 2015-2016 and surveying college students at a large, southeastern public university, aged 18-24 (n=187). Regression analyses were run in order to predict hookup behaviors using the partier identity, commitment to partier identity, and partier identity meanings. Ultimately, the model supports the hypothesis that college students who claim the partier identity are more likely to hook up, though commitment to this identity is low overall.

hookup culture, identity theory, symbolic interactionism, social psychology, college drinking