Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Orcutt, Holly K.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Childhood abuse is widespread and associated with negative consequences including mental illness, revictimization, substance use, and impaired functioning. Emotion dysregulation is a possible explanation for the relationship between childhood abuse and subsequent outcomes. Potential pathways between childhood abuse history, risky sexual behavior, and substance use have been explored, with evidence for use of sex and substances to avoid negative affectivity associated with greater risky sexual behavior and substance use. Risky sexual behavior (RSB) is defined as any behavior that places individuals at greater risk for negative outcomes and often include condomless sex, substance use prior to or during sex, and sex with those with unknown risk factors. Motivations for sexual intercourse, and specifically use of sex to reduce negative affect (SRNA), have been studied as predictors of RSB, as negative affect may decrease one’s ability to assess risk and thus contribute to greater risk taking. Substance use is positively associated with childhood abuse history, and use of alcohol and marijuana to reduce negative affect (ARNA, MRNA) is associated with greater alcohol and marijuana use and specific risky sexual behaviors. The current study evaluated the relationships between childhood abuse and RSB, SRNA, ARNA, MRNA, and substance use, reported globally and at three discrete retrospectively reported sexual events (i.e., most recent casual sexual encounter or “hookup,” first sexual encounter with most recent exclusive partner, most recent sexual encounter with most recent exclusive partner) in a sample of female-identifying sexually active undergraduate students (N = 227). Correlations between global study variables were examined, and relationships between childhood abuse and event-level RSB, SRNA, ARNA, and MRNA were examined in a series of MANOVAs and evidenced nonsignificant findings or findings that were significant only at the hookup event. The MEMORE macro was used to test moderation models in variables collected over repeated measures and evidenced both global SRNA and childhood abuse severity as significant moderators between sexual event and RSB when evaluated in separate moderator analyses of various combinations of sexual events. Implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.


131 pages




Northern Illinois University

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