Sexting within adolescents' romantic relationships: How is it related to perceptions of love and verbal conflict?

Joris Van Ouytsel, Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Although adolescent sexting often takes place within the context of adolescents' romantic relationships, little is known about how the behavior is associated with their relationship perceptions. This study addresses this gap in the research by focusing on the associations between adolescents' engagement in sexting and their perceptions of intimacy, passion, commitment, and verbal conflict within their current romantic relationships. We report on a survey that was conducted in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium among 657 adolescents (n girls = 415; 63.3%) between 14 and 18 years old (M age = 16.41; SD age = 0.94) who indicated that they were in a romantic relationship at the time that the survey was administered. We captured the dimensions of intimacy, passion, and commitment as defined by Sternberg's triangular theory of love. The logistic regression analysis revealed that engagement in sexting within a romantic relationship was significantly linked to higher perceptions of passion within the relationship. There was also a positive association between perceptions of verbal conflict and adolescents' engagement in sexting. No differences were found with regards to commitment and intimacy when comparing those who engaged in sexting and those who did not. The results suggest that associations between sexting and relationship satisfaction are limited, and that sending sexts could function as a way to express feelings among adolescents who have a need for sexual and physical proximity within their romantic relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-221
Number of pages6
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Love perceptions
  • Relational conflict
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Sexting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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