To examine the prevalence and correlates of sending and receiving sexts (i.e., sexually explicit images) in a provincially representative sample of adolescents in Canada.
Data from the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study, a provincial survey of households with children in Ontario, which includes a sample of 2,537 adolescents aged 14 to 17 years (mean age = 15.42, male = 51.6%) were used to address the research objectives.
The past 12 months prevalence of sending and receiving sexts was 14.4% and 27.0%, respectively. In unadjusted logistic regression analyses, non-White adolescents and those living in low-income households were less likely to send or receive sexts compared to White and non-low-income adolescents. Adolescents who disclosed their sexual and/or gender minority identities were 3 to 4 times more likely to send and receive sexts than youth who had not disclosed these identities. Higher levels of mental health problems generally observed among adolescents who sent or received sexts. In fully adjusted models, low income and ethnic minority status were associated with reduced odds of sending and receiving sexts, while sexual and/or gender minority disclosure status was associated with increased odds. Social anxiety was associated with reduced odds of sending and receiving sexts, while conduct disorder was associated with elevated odds.
The prevalence of sexting behavior was higher among adolescents who disclosed their sexual or gender minority identities. Sexting behaviors were associated with higher levels of mental health problems. Identifying vulnerable populations and the potential mental health ramifications associated with sexting behavior is vital to mitigating negative sequelae.