Adolescents and self-taken sexual images: a review of the literature

Karen Cooper*, Ethel Quayle, Linda Jonsson, Carl Göran Svedin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Citations (Scopus)


Despite increasing public interest and concern about young people's involvement in the self-production of sexual images (or ‘sexting’), there remains a dearth of research into their reasons for making and sending images, the processes involved, and the consequences arising from their experiences. This article reviews the motivational, lifestyle and personality factors influencing adolescent sexting practices and explores the research evidence within the wider context of debates around contemporary social and visual media cultures and gender. A systematic search of databases was conducted and eighty-eight records were identified for inclusion in the review. The findings reveal that sexting is remarkably varied in terms of context, meaning and intention, with the potential for consensual and non-consensual aspects of the activity. Whilst sexting can be a means of flirting or enhancing a sexual relationship, it can highlight potential vulnerabilities to victimisation or to participation in risky sexual practices. Sexting is also inextricably linked to social expectations of gendered sexual behaviours, with females often deriving less satisfaction from their experiences and being perceived more negatively by their peers. Further research linking adolescent motivations, well-being, relationships and lifestyles with the broader socio-cultural and media landscape will ultimately help drive understanding about the subject forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-716
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue numberPart B
Early online date12 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • sexting
  • adolescence
  • motivations
  • gender
  • social and visual media
  • cyberbullying


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