Friends with Benefits Relationships Fueled by Alcohol

The term “friends with benefits,” or those who are in a casual physical and emotional relationship, has become a common part of the vernacular. They have a blend of friendship and physical relations, yet they are not in a committed romantic relationship. This study was performed to analyze the reactions or association of young adults to a friends-with-benefit relationship in the previous year. The reactions were correlated to their gender, previous relationships, psychological disturbances and alcohol consumption. It was found that men were more likely to be involved in a friends-with-benefits relationship and higher alcohol consumption was observed in those engaging in a friends-with-benefits relationship. Further, thoughtfulness about relationship decisions moderated the link between alcohol use and involvement in friends-with-benefits relationships, and this moderation effect was stronger for women than men. Young adults with more psychological distress and those who felt constrained in the friends-with-benefits relationship were more likely to report negative emotional reactions. Implications for psycho-educational programs and future research are offered.

In friends-with-benefits relationships, there are no commitments as in an actual relationship. The need for emotional and physical satisfaction motivates most young adults into this relationship. However, this could result in deeper emotions and jeopardize friendships. It could also prevent clear decisions being made about relationships. Factors such as social pressure, alcoholism and psychological distress could instill thoughts about this relationship in young adults. Gender could also influence the initiation of friends-with-benefits relationships. Few young adults retain their friends-with-benefits relationship hoping for a progression to a committed relationship. This study was performed to ascertain the demographic and psychosocial factors that could induce such a relationship. The reactions to these relationships were also examined.

* There were 889 participants, including 341 men and 548 women in the age group between 17 and 25 years.
* The study was conducted as an online survey. The participants were given five days to answer the questions in the survey.
* The survey assessed the emotional reactions of the participants to the friends-with-benefit relationship, their psychological distress factors, and other related factors.

* It was found that 54.3 percent of men and 42.9 percent of women reported have had a friends-with-benefits relationship.
* Only 24.8 percent of men hoped that their relationship would progress into a committed one, whereas 39.5 percent of women hoped for progression to a committed relationship.
* For a committed relationship, statistically significant gender differences were observed.
* Alcohol was a primary factor influencing the engagement in a friends-with-benefits relationship.

All participants were selected from a university class on families leading to biases. It was found that because all were university students, the results could not be generalized. Self-reporting of the survey could have led to bias too. Although relationship research requires results from the couple, only one member in this study voiced opinions. The study also lacked details on the relationship such as the duration, previous relationships and the type of physical intimacy involved.

“The present study helps shed light on an important phenomenon in emerging adulthood.” The study included the influence of various factors on friends-with-benefits relationships. Though this relationship could lead to a viable relationship at later stages, dangers such as sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies could increase. Most young adults do not seem to have complete knowledge on these relationships. Thus, relationship education programs could play a vital role and could help raise the intellect of young adults in this perspective. The educators could help in increasing the awareness of all relationships and emphasize the disadvantages of factors such as alcoholism that could impede thoughtful decisions.

For More Information
Effects of Gender and Psychosocial Factors on “Friends with Benefits” Relationships among Young Adults
Publication Journal: The Archives of Sex Behavior, March 2010
By Jesse Owen; Frank Fincham; University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky and Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.