Sowing wild oats: Valuable experience or a field full of weeds?


  • Dean M. Busby, Brian J. Willoughby, and Jason S. Carroll, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.
  • Portions of this article were presented at the fifth annual Conference on Emerging Adulthood, Providence, RI, October 2011.


In this study, the association was explored between the number of sexual partners individuals had in their lifetimes and martial outcomes. The research objective was to test whether the number of sexual partners was associated with sexual quality, communication, relationship satisfaction, and relationship stability, while controlling for relationship length, education, race, income, age, and religiosity, using the two competing theories of sexual compatibility and sexual restraint. The results, with a sample of 2,654 married individuals, indicated that the number of sexual partners was associated with lower levels of sexual quality, communication, and relationship stability, providing support for the sexual restraint theory. Gender was not significantly associated with the patterns in the model but age cohorts did have different patterns.