An Exploratory Study of Online Early Sexual Initiation through Pressured and Unwanted Sexting

Joris Van Ouytsel, Yu Lu, Jeff R. Temple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Sexting in young adolescents may be an online form of early sexual debut. We assess the link between potentially problematic sexting (i.e., pressured and receiving unwanted sexts) with known risky behaviors (i.e., substance use and early sexual behavior) among middle school students aged 12 and under. The ethnically diverse sample consisted of 1131 youth (53% female) enrolled in the 7th grade in one of 24 schools in southeast Texas. Participants self-identified as 31% Hispanic, 9% White, 24% Black, 19% Asian, 11% other, and 6% unknown. Participants self-reported pressured sexting, receiving unwanted sexts, history of sexual activity, and substance use. Two-point-one percent of adolescents reported sending a sext under pressure and 13.7% reported having received an unwanted sexting image. Participants with a history of sexual intercourse, relative to their non-sexually experienced counterparts, reported higher rates of being pressured into sexting and receiving unwanted sexts. Further, a portion of youth who experienced pressured or unwanted sexting also reported the use of various substances, relative to their non-sexting counterparts. Our study underscores the need for comprehensive sex education to begin at an early age and include age-appropriate information on sexting, digital citizenship, relationships, and substance use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-748
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 24 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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