Childhood characteristics and personal dispositions to sexually compulsive behavior among young adults

Bilesha Perera, Michael Reece, Patrick Monahan, Robert Billingham, Peter Finn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


This study explored possible associations between two personal tendencies "sexual compulsivity" and "sexual sensation seeking," and self-esteem, family environmental conditions and sexual abuse experiences during childhood in a sample of 539 young adults in a mid-western university. A cross-sectional survey design was employed and data were collected using self-report, anonymous questionnaires. Men scored higher on the measures of sexual compulsivity and sexual sensation seeking than women. Mean scores on the measure of sexual compulsivity and sexual sensation seeking in this young adult college sample were lower when compared with high risk groups such as men living with HIV. Sex abuse experiences and poor family environment during childhood were associated with sexual sensation seeking and sexual compulsive tendencies. Neither sexual compulsivity nor sexual sensation seeking was associated with childhood self-esteem. Further, the results of this study suggest that sexual compulsive behavior compared to sexual sensation seeking, has much stronger connection with childhood etiological factors investigated in this study. Thus, as suggested by other sex researchers, those who are challenged by compulsive behaviors may need long-term treatment, but sensation seekers could possibly be effectively treated with short-term behavioral interventions. Causal relationships between childhood etiological factors and out-of-control behaviors, and subsequent risky sexual behaviors, as well as their implications for health promotion programs targeted at young adults, need to be investigated using longitudinal and qualitative research methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-145
Number of pages15
JournalSexual Addiction and Compulsivity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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