New study finds hooking up can lead to long-term relationships

University of Iowa sociologist Anthony Paik’s survey of 642 adults in Chicago  finds that “average relationship quality was higher for individuals who waited until things were serious to have sex.” However, after controlling for people who had zero interest in having a relationship, that difference disappeared.

“Couples who became sexually involved as friends or acquaintances and were open to a serious relationship ended up just as happy as those who dated and waited,” says Paik.

We didn’t see much evidence that relationships were lower quality because they started off as hookups. The study suggests that rewarding relationships are possible for those who delay sex. But it’s also possible for true love to emerge if things start off with a more ‘Sex and the City’ approach, when people spot each other across the room, become sexually involved and then build a relationship.

Put another way: The type of sexual relationship matters less in determining its quality than the readiness of the people involved.

The study is “‘Hookups,’ Dating, and Relationship Quality: Does the Type of Sexual Involvement Matter?” It does not yet appear online. When they are posted, articles are available only for purchase from Social Science Research.

The press release is here.

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