A social-ecological approach to understanding adolescent sexting behavior

Simon C. Hunter, Kirsten Russell, Stefania Pagani, Lindsey Munro, Sofia M. Pimenta, Inmaculada Marín-López, Jun Sung Hong, Lee Knifton

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This study examined the extent to which active and passive sexting behaviors are associated with family-, school-, peer-, and romantic-level variables. Young people (N = 3,322; 49.1% female, 48.3% male, 2.6% other) aged 11 to 15 years old (M = 12.84, SD = 0.89) took part, and all attended mainstream secondary schools in Scotland. Participants completed self-report measures of school connectedness, parental love and support, perceived susceptibility to peer- and romantic-pressure (e.g., to display behaviors just to impress others), and their involvement in active and passive sexting. The importance of both school- and family-level factors was evident, though perceived romantic-pressure had the largest effect. However, neither school- nor family-level variables were moderated by either perceived romantic-pressure or perceived peer-pressure. Efforts to reduce sexting or increase its safety should primarily seek to tackle young people’s ability to respond effectively to romantic-pressure. It may also be helpful to develop school connectedness and to help families provide support that is constructive and not intrusive.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Early online date12 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2021


  • parenting
  • peer-pressure
  • romantic-pressure
  • school connectedness
  • sexting

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