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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 May 2021


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