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Adults, Not Just Teens, Are Engaging in 'Sexting'

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In 2009, the Pew Center for Internet and American Life published survey findings that 4 percent of adolescents 12 to 17 years old had sent "sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos" of themselves to someone else via text message.

That sparked a "sexting" panic over the unsettling implications of young people engaging in this type of illicit interaction, as well as legal issues involving the cell phone-transmitted photos that could be deemed child pornography.

Consequently, much of the media attention to sexting has focused solely on adolescent behavior, yet the act of sexting isn't limited to teens.  Plenty of adults send racy text messages and cell phone pictures, too.

Psychology professor Michelle Drouin has studied sexting behavior among the college-aged population and found that around half of people in committed relationships had sent a sext photo to their partners, and two-thirds had engaged in sext messaging.

"It's a part of our dating culture to be doing this," said Drouin, who teaches at Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne.

Though Drouin doesn't see sexting as inherently "dangerous" as it's often portrayed in the context of adolescent relationships, her research indicates the sexting behavior does relate to certain types of "red flag" relationship styles among adults.

"Those who are anxiously attached and those who are avoidantly attached were more likely to use texting," Drouin said.  "But when you broke it down, it was actually women who were anxiously attached who were more likely to use sexting and were more likely be sending messages.  The men who were avoidantly attached -- those who dismiss the importance of interactions and relationships -- were more likely to be receiving those sexual text messages."

Conversely, people with healthier relationship styles don't tend to sext as much.

The low level of commitment involved with sending sexual text messages, as opposed to verbal and face-to-face contact, may also impact relationship dynamics.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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