The relationship between self-regulation, risky sexual behaviour and dating application use in young heterosexual adults
Dating applications can be defined as social networking sites (SNSs) that target convenience, closeness in physical location, and physical attraction. In the past few years, dating applications have become increasingly popular among young adults aged 18 to 24 years. This increase in dating application use is of particular relevance given the fact that this age group is particularly vulnerable to engaging in, and experiencing the consequences of, risky sexual behaviour (RSB). In South Africa particularly, RSB among young adults is associated with increased rates of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancies. Some research has suggested that self-regulation, defined by Karoly (1993) as the conscious or unconscious regulation of emotions, thoughts, motivations, cognitions, social interactions, and physical behaviours in relation to changing environments, may be a possible intervention point to mitigate RSB. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate the relationships between self-regulation, dating application use, and RSB, with the ultimate intention of identifying future points of intervention to mitigate RSB within the South African young adult population. A convenience sample of 151 heterosexual South African young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years (female=105 [69.5%], male = 46 [30.5%]) participated in the study. The participants completed an online questionnaire using Google Forms, which they accessed through a link posted on the Facebook group, "South African Youth Business Unity". Self-regulation was measured with Carey, Neal, and Collins' (2004) Shortened Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SSRQ). In this study, the factor structure proposed by Potgieter and Botha (2009), based on a factor analysis of the SSRQ in the South African context, was used. RSB was measured with an adapted version of Turchik and Garske's (2009) Sexual Risk Survey (SRS). Some questions related to dating application use were also asked in the online questionnaire. Statistical analysis of the data was then conducted using Pearson's correlations, effect sizes, and multiple regressions. The two gender groups showed considerable differences regarding RSB and differed slightly regarding self-regulation. Male participants showed larger practically relevant effect sizes on several RSB factors (Uncommitted Partners, Intent to Engage, Impulsive Behaviour, and Total RSB) when compared with female participants, who only showed practical importance related to Uncommitted Partners and Intent to Engage. Male participants thus appear to be more vulnerable to RSB than female participants. Regarding self-regulation differences, males who have used dating applications showed considerably poorer scores on Persistence than those who have not used dating applications. Female participants showed no noteworthy differences related to any self-regulation factors when comparing participants who have or have not used dating applications. Another significant gender difference in self-regulation indicated that Decision-Making can be used to predict, and therefore intervene in, RSB among male participants, particularly those who have used dating applications. Therefore, it is recommended that intervention programmes aimed at reducing RSB strive to improve decision-making and persistence skills. It was concluded that important relationships between self-regulation, dating application use, and RSB exist among young South African adults. Gender differences identified within this study indicate that young males who use dating applications show stronger relations to RSB than females or males who do not use dating applications. The identification of persistence and decision-making skills as possible intervention points to mitigate RSB is of great relevance and substantial contribution within the current climate of young South Africans.
- Health Sciences