(RNS) Women at Catholic colleges engage more frequently in sexual “hook ups” than women at secular colleges, a new study shows, and researchers suspect alcohol may be the reason.
The study defines a “hook up” as “a physical encounter between two people who are largely unfamiliar with one another or otherwise briefly acquainted.” The encounters typically involve “moderate to heavy alcohol and carry no anticipation of a future relationship.”
Researchers at Mississippi State University found that religious female students tend to hook up less, unless they attend Catholic-affiliated institutions.
In addition, students who attend church more regularly and report a deeper personal spirituality — especially women at conservative Protestant schools — are less likely to hook up.
The study, published last September with little notice in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, is based on a nationally representative sample of unmarried, undergraduate women who are currently enrolled at four-year institutions.
Researched asked the 919 women if they had participated in a “hook up” while at college. It then investigated their religious affiliation, the type of institution they attended (public, private, religiously affiliated), their religious involvement, and how religious they considered themselves to be.
Amy Burdette, assistant professor of sociology at Mississippi State, said her interest was sparked by the lack of research on dating life and the “hook up” culture on campuses, as well as her personal interest in religion.
Burdette did not foresee the effect of Catholic affiliation. “That finding was very surprising and not what we expected,” she said.
According to Burdette, researchers did not have enough information on key factors to explain the Catholic anomaly. However, she did speculate that it may have something to do with looser alcohol restrictions.
“Alcohol plays a key role in `hooking up,”‘ Burdette said. “There’s just not a lot of restrictions in the dorm” at Catholic institutions.
— Kimberlee Hauss
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