Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Alison Looby


Risky sexual behaviors (e.g., sex without protection against pregnancy, sex with multiple partners) are common among college students. In order to decrease these behaviors, it is necessary to understand factors associated with their occurrence, such as alcohol use. Drinking motives are a known predictor of both alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences, which may theoretically include risky sex. However, no research has directly examined drinking motives as a predictor of engaging in a wide range of risky sexual behaviors. Thus, the current study examined whether drinking motives interact with alcohol use to predict risky sex among college students. One-hundred and eight primarily female (83.3%) college students (age: M = 19.09, SD = 1.16) who endorsed past-month alcohol use and lifetime history of sexual activity completed up to four weekly Internet surveys assessing daily alcohol involvement, and if present, quantity of use, drinking motives for that episode, and engagement in risky sex. Four Generalized Estimating Equations were used to predict risky sex from person-centered drinking quantity and drinking motives (i.e., social, enhancement, coping, conformity). Results revealed marginally significant main effects of alcohol use in 3 of the 4 models, with higher levels of use increasing the odds of risky sex. Additionally, higher social motives increased the odds of engaging in risky sex by 10.3%. Finally, there was a significant interaction between alcohol use and enhancement motives, with individuals high in motives and low in alcohol use most at risk for engaging in risky sex. Interventions targeting social and enhancement motives for drinking may be particularly effective in reducing the occurrence of risky sex among college students, which may result in a reduction of the negative health outcomes accompanying this behavior.