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Study highlights ex relationships, STDs

Having sex with an ex might be comfortable for many, but according to a new study, it’s becoming the norm for some in younger generations.

In their study, “Relationship Churning in Emerging Adulthood: On/Off Relationships and Sex with an Ex,” four sociology professors examined the cycle of couples breaking up and getting back together, and the possibility of getting sexually transmitted diseases from this relationship.

“They’re not a stranger-danger person, so you feel comfortable,” said Peggy Giordano, a sociology professor who contributed to the study. “The irony is that you feel comfortable so you may not be so vigilant about condom use.”

The study will be published in the March edition of the Journal of Adolescent Research.

Sarah Halpern-Meekin, a contributor and assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said interest in the “churning” study began while they were working on the Toledo Adolescent Relationship Study. They define “churning” as a cycle of stopping and starting relationships.

“Our small study is using data that is part of a larger study,” she said.

The TARS study began in the fall of 2000 and focused on more than 1000 adolescents from Lucas County.

There have been five rounds of information gathered, and the “churning” paper is based off the fourth round of information.

“The people in the study are now ranging from ages 18 to 24, not all are in college, but they are all young adults or emerging adults,” said Wendy Manning, co-director of the University’s sociology department.

The information was gathered in a way to protect the participant’s privacy.

“These matters were personal,” Giordano said. “So we used laptops for the sensitive information.”

Manning said they decided to take a new angle on the study of these relationships.

“You can’t treat [these relationships] like marriage,” she said. “They are just defined by the couple, they are in the moment, they can start and end at will.”

The patterns can be linked to today’s young adults taking longer to transition into what is considered adulthood, Manning said.

“People are taking longer to get married, taking longer to finish school, there’s more of a dwindling path to full time employment,” Manning said.

With this realization, the questions asked changed slightly for further studies.

“Instead of asking ‘have you been in a relationship?’ we asked ‘have you ever broken up and got back together?’” Giordano said.

Giordano said they began to notice a pattern with a lot of their participants. Around half said they had broken up and gotten back together with someone. Of those who had broken up, half said they had sex with an ex, Hapern-Meekin said.

“Breaking up and getting back together is fairly common,” she said. “We also found that there were periods when you would have sex with that person while they were broken up.”

Manning said the study also shows how much of a struggle adolescence can be.

“It’s evocative, especially in the time period where you are trying to figure out who you want to be with, what your goals are, there’s a lot of instability in these young adult years,” she said.

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