How Do Alcohol and Relationship Type Affect Women's Risk Judgment of Partners With Differing Risk Histories?

Jeanette Norris, Preston A. Kiekel, Diane M. Morrison, Kelly Cue Davis, William H. George, Tina Zawacki, Devon Alisa Abdallah, Angela J. Jacques-Tiura, Cynthia A. Stappenbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Understanding how women judge male partners' sexual risk is important to developing risk reduction programs. Applying a cognitive mediation model of sexual decision making, our study investigated effects of alcohol consumption (control, low dose, high dose) and relationship type (disrupted vs. new) on women's risk judgments of a male sexual partner in three sexual risk conditions (low, unknown, and high). After random assignment to an experimental condition, 328 participants projected themselves into a story depicting a sexual interaction. The story was paused to assess primary appraisals of sexual and relationship potential and secondary appraisals of pleasure, health, and relationship concerns, followed by sexual risk judgments. In all risk conditions, alcohol and disrupted relationship increased sexual potential, whereas disrupted relationship increased relationship potential in the low- and high-risk conditions. In the unknown-risk condition, women in the no-alcohol, new relationship condition had the lowest primary sexual appraisals. In all conditions, sexual appraisals predicted all secondary appraisals, but primary relationship appraisals predicted only secondary relationship appraisals. Secondary health appraisals led to increased risk judgments, whereas relationship appraisals predicted lower risk judgments. Possible intervention points include helping women to re-evaluate their safety beliefs about past partners as well as to develop behavioral strategies for decreasing hazardous drinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-223
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • alcohol intoxication
  • interpersonal relationships
  • sexual risk taking
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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