Associations among Negative Urgency, Sensation Seeking, Alcohol Use, Self-Esteem, and Casual Sexual Behavior for College Students

Laura M. Longo, Melissa M. Ertl, Rena Pazienza, Alexandra U. Agiliga, Frank R. Dillon, Jessica L. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: The present study proposed a moderated mediation model of relations among negative urgency, sensation seeking, alcohol use, self-esteem, and casual sexual behavior among college students. We hypothesized students’ alcohol use would mediate a positive relation between two facets of impulsivity, negative urgency and sensation seeking, with casual sexual behavior. We also examined the influence of self-esteem on alcohol use and casual sexual behavior to determine if self-esteem may serve as a point of intervention. We hypothesized that self-esteem might moderate the relation between casual sexual behavior and alcohol use, such that students who report high alcohol use in addition to low self-esteem would engage in more casual sexual behavior than individuals who report relatively higher levels of self-esteem. Methods: Data were collected in 2015 from 413 undergraduate students at a large Northeastern public university. Structural equation modeling tested the moderated mediation model. Results: Contrary to hypotheses, the theorized model demonstrated an inadequate fit to the data when self-esteem was included. A second structural model was calculated to test alcohol use as a mediator of associations between negative urgency and sensation seeking, and casual sexual behavior. As hypothesized, students’ alcohol use was found to be a mediator of the positive associations between negative urgency and casual sexual behavior and sensation seeking and casual sexual behavior. Conclusions: Findings suggest that alcohol use, negative urgency, and sensation seeking may serve as points of intervention to address casual sexual behavior, as appropriate, among college student populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-805
Number of pages10
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2 2020


  • Casual sexual behavior
  • alcohol use
  • college students
  • negative urgency
  • sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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