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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Four days of text messaging were micro-coded for content related to sex. Following 12 th grade, participants reported on their sexual activity and again completed a measure of borderline personality features. showed that engaging in sexting at age 16 was associated with reporting an early sexual debut, having sexual intercourse experience, having multiple sex partners, and engaging in drug use in combination with sexual activity two years later.

Girls engaging in sex talk were more likely to have had sexual intercourse by age Text messaging about hypothetical sex in grade 10 also predicted borderline personality features at age These findings suggest that sending text messages with sexual content poses risks for adolescents. Programs to prevent risky sexual activity and to promote psychological health could be enhanced by teaching adolescents to use digital communication responsibly. Adolescents prefer text messaging as a way to communicate with peers, even above face-to-face communication Lenhart,and texting may play an important role in emerging sexual relationships.

Sexting refers to sending sexually explicit or suggestive images, videos, or text messages via digital communication Cox Communications, Although sending nude or nearly nude pictures has serious psychological and legal consequences, we should not ignore the practice of adolescents sending sexually suggestive written text messages.

Sexting may confer risk for early sexual activity and other risky sexual behaviors, as well as other forms of maladjustment. Indeed, the immediacy of sexting could contribute to the emergence of borderline personality features given that it constitutes a source of attention and reassurance seeking for vulnerable youth desperate for relationships. The primary goals of this study were to: examine the prevalence of sexting among a typically developing adolescent sample, examine whether sending text messages about sex relates to sexual activity, examine whether sexting predicts borderline personality features above and beyond sexual activity, and examine whether borderline personality features predict engaging in sexting.

The current study also explored gender differences in sending text messages discussing sex. Sending text messages about sex may relate to actual sexual activity because adolescents co-construct their online and offline identities. In light of the associations between sexting and psychological disorders with symptomology similar to borderline personality disorder BPDexamining sexting behaviors as a possible predictor of borderline personality features seems warranted as does the idea that BPD features and sexting are likely reciprocally related.

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Digital technologies are attractive to adolescents as a source of sexual information and exploration because they are widely available, are always on, and are viewed as being safe Brown et al. Rather than communicate face-to-face, adolescents prefer to text one another during the initial stages of a romantic relationship due to the privacy, sense of constant connectedness, and ease of conversing Pascoe, The findings suggest that adolescents perceive a sense of control over their environment when communicating by text messaging.

Little is known about why teens engage in sexting, under what conditions they engage in sexting, and the consequences associated with the behavior.

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The co-construction model of adolescent development suggests that when interacting with peers via digital communication such as text messaging, adolescents are co-constructing their environment rather than simply being shaped by their environment Subrahmanyam et al.

For instance, many youth display their sexual orientation on social networking sites, post stories and poems about sex, write blogs detailing sexual experiences, and share sexually explicit pictures and messages via cell phones; thus they are detailing their offline sexual experiences in an online forum Brown et al.

As a result, adolescents are able to openly present a digital persona that might be difficult to communicate in the real world. For example they can communicate a digital identity that is either sexual or not, in a relationship or not, or open to new experiences, and in doing so they are able to address multiple key developmental tasks of adolescence including identity formation, autonomy, intimacy, and sexuality. Twenty-two percent of teens reported being more forward and aggressive when sending text messages containing sexually suggestive words than they are in face-to-face conversations NCPTUP, Sexting was related to symptoms of anxiety and depression when sexting was consensual, but unwanted i.

Within this context, sexting may be a form of sexual experimentation, a means of addressing emerging sexual feelings, and a way of establishing moral values Katzman, ; Lenhart, Sexting in the form of explicit images may be a proxy for face-to-face sexual contact for some youth Lenhart, Not all teens who sext engage in sexual activity Dake et al.

Indeed, sharing sexual content by cell phones allows adolescents to address sexual desires and construct a sexual identity without the pressure of face-to face physical sexual relationships which are often unstable and a source of regret for many adolescents The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, With One Voice, Yet sexting can lead to consequences such as engagement in digital media dating violence Van Ouytsel, et al.

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For other teens, sexting is used to enhance an already sexual relationship Lenhart, However, sharing sexual content by cell phone may be problematic as it may promote a view of sex as risk-free. Consequently, sexually inexperienced teens may feel increased pressure to engage in sexual activity before they are physically or mentally ready Moreno et al.

Early sexual debut i. In addition, sexting may be associated with increased sexual behavior. Defining sexting as sending nude or nearly nude photos or videos of themselves or someone else, researchers categorized a sample of young adults ages 18 — 24 as: non-sexters, receivers, senders, and two-way sexters i. Although sexting was not related to risky sexual behavior, sexting was associated with increased sexual activity. Receivers of sexts were three times more likely to be sexually active, and two-way sexters were 14 times more likely to be sexually active than non-sexters.

Sparse empirical evidence supports the link between the exchange of text-only sext messages and sexual activity among adolescents. Borderline personality disorder BPD is characterized by impulsive behavior, unstable interpersonal relationships, and desperate attempts to avoid abandonment American Psychiatric Association [APA], Because text messaging promotes a perception of constant connectedness, text messaging is one context in which adolescents with borderline features may engage in attention seeking behaviors such as sexting.

BPD is typically not diagnosed prior to the age of 18 APA, ; nevertheless, evidence suggests that children and younger adolescents often display precursors of the personality disorder throughout development e. Adolescents who engage in sexting may receive peer reinforcement for impulsive, attention-seeking behavior, and this may further contribute to the emergence of borderline features.

We expect that BPD features and sexting will be reciprocally related. Adolescents may engage in sexting to cope with negative emotions that are often associated with borderline personality features e. Similarly, adolescents with borderline personality features may use sexting to instantaneously avoid feelings of loneliness or to salvage relationships they perceive as being in jeopardy.

Adolescents who engage in sexting also experience emotional health issues such as depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and feelings of loneliness Dake et al. Taken together, these findings suggest that examining sexting as it relates to borderline personality features seems warranted. The primary purpose of this study was to identify the prevalence of sexting among a typically developing adolescent sample and to examine how observed sexting relates to sexual activity sexual intercourse and risky sexual behaviors and to borderline personality features.

Fifteen-year-old participants were provided with BlackBerry devices with paid service plans configured so that the content of text messages sent and received was saved to a secure online archive for later coding and analysis. Four days of text messaging communication was coded for content related to sex, both discussion of actual sex and hypothetical sex. Participants completed a measure of borderline personality features prior to their 10 th grade year, and completed a measure of sexual activity and the same measure of borderline personality features at the end of 12 th grade. The current investigation is one of a few studies that have examined text messaging in a naturalistic setting e.

Therefore, we hypothesized that:. This development of intimacy may engender exploration and declaration of sexual desires among adolescents which can help facilitate the transition of online sexual relationships to offline sexual relationships Brown et al.

Thus, even though sexting is not always associated with sexual activity Dake et al. We also hypothesized that sexting would be related to having more than one sex partner in the past year H2bto having used alcohol or drugs prior to having sexual intercourse within the past year H2cand to not using birth control when having sexual intercourse H2d. Although sexting has been linked to risky sexual behavior for girls Benotsch et al. Therefore, we predicted that sexting would only be associated with risky sexual activity for girls H2e.

Because sexting promotes intimacy without the need for actual physical contact, it was expected that talking about sex via text message communication would predict borderline personality features at age 18 above and beyond sexual activity H3b. Given that sexting is a novel phenomenon and few studies have examined the relation between sexting behaviors and personality disorder traits, it is difficult to suggest theoretically guided hypotheses with regard to gender differences in this relation.

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Nonetheless, because girls are more susceptible to internalizing symptoms and self- objectification in relation to sexting than are boys Brown et al. Further, because borderline personality features and sexting may be reciprocally related, we hypothesized that a predisposition to borderline personality features would predict sexting H3d.

Participants included 10th grade adolescents 85 girls and 96 boys, 15—16 years old with text messaging data who participated in an ongoing longitudinal study of relationships and adjustment. Participants were initially recruited when they were either finishing the third grade or beginning the fourth grade of a diverse public school district in the Southwestern United States and were contacted yearly until they completed the 12 th grade. Attrition between the 10 th grade data collection period and the summer following 12 th grade was The sample was Most children had married parents Because our goal was to include all youth who engaged in sexting, our sample included participants reporting other-sex A graphical representation of data collection time periods and procedures is included in Figure 1.

During the summer before 9 th grade, participants were provided with BlackBerry devices with paid service plans including voice minutes, unlimited texting plans, and data plans providing direct access to the Internet.

Participants were encouraged to use the BlackBerries as their primary cell phone; however, participants were not prohibited from communicating online using computers and other devices. For example, as substantiated from billing records, the frequencies of text messages sent and received using the BlackBerry devices matched frequencies reported in national survey data Lenhart, Timeline of data collection procedures including baseline borderline personality measure, 10 th grade text message coding, summer data collection period, and borderline personality and romantic relationships questionnaire 2 years later.

All incoming and outgoing digital communication was captured and stored in a secure, off-site archive maintained by Global Relay, a company specializing in archiving text-messaging communication. The archive presents text messages in a readable format so that electronic searches are possible. To address possible ethical concerns, the archive was monitored weekly by searching for a customized list of words and phrases that may indicate the need for intervention e.

Instances of these words and phrases were flagged and the archive was reviewed by searching content sent and received before and after the flagged word s to identify if parents or authorities should be contacted reference withheld for blind review, The four days of text messaging data were micro-coded as two, 2-day periods identified as Data Point In keeping with the overarching goals of our longitudinal study, a detailed micro-coding system for text messaging was developed to capture social aggression, antisocial behavior, sex, and prosocial communication.

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Although the content of the text messaging was micro-coded for positive talk, neutral talk, social aggression, antisocial behavior, and sex, this study only examined sex talk i. An utterance refers to a unit of communication that conveys a complete thought such as a complete sentence e. Each utterance for the two, two-day periods was coded into the above by a team of coders trained to use a coding system deed for the current study. Unintelligible text message content was discussed with the entire coding team during ongoing coding meetings. If consensus was not reached, the utterance was coded as neutral talk.

Due to the large volume of text messages received in our archive each month approximatelytext messagesit was not possible to code all text message communication sent and received. Our goal was to collect text message data during periods of high social activity; thus, the first data point If a participant did not have any text message data during the chosen 2-day period, alternative dates were chosen by searching before and after the 2-day period until two acceptable days were located.

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