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Study Finds Early Sex Linked to Teen Delinquency Which Can Last into Adulthood

Tue Feb 27, 2007 - 12:15 pm EST

COLUMBUS, Ohio, February 27, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Teens who start having sex significantly earlier than their peers also show higher rates of delinquency in later years, new research shows. A national study of more than 7,000 youth found that adolescents who had sex early showed a 20 percent increase in delinquent acts one year later compared to those whose first sexual experience occurred at the average age for their school.

  In contrast, those teens who waited longer than average to have sex had delinquency rates 50 percent lower a year later compared to average teens. And those trends continued up to six years.

  Stacy Armour, a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University, co-authored the study with Dana Haynie, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State . Their results appear in the February 2007 issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

  The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. An initial survey was conducted in 1994-95 of students from across the country in grades 7 to 12. These students attended 132 high schools and their "feeder" middle schools.

  This study included students who reported they were virgins in this first survey. They were then surveyed again one year later, and a third time six years later in 2002.

  In this study, the average age of sexual debut - age at first intercourse - was calculated for each school in the sample.  "That way, the respondents in the study are compared to the peers in their own school, rather than an arbitrary age that is deemed the average age for everyone," Armour said.

  The average age for sexual debut in this study ranged from 11.25 to 17.5 years of age, depending on the individual schools.  Adolescents in the sample who had their first sexual encounter about one year or more before average for their school (the exact length differed for each school) were considered early.

  To determine rates of delinquency, students in the survey were asked how often in the past year they participated in a variety of delinquent acts, including painting graffiti, deliberately damaging property, stealing, or selling drugs.

  The study found that youth who had their sexual debut between the first and second surveys showed a 58 percent increase in delinquency compared to those who remained virgins. But the increases were more pronounced for those who were younger than their peers when they first had sex.

  The researchers found that of those respondents who had their first sexual experience between the first and second surveys, 9 percent had started significantly earlier than their peers, 58 percent were average, and 33 percent experienced sexual intercourse significantly later than others.

  The researchers took into account a variety of factors that could affect how long adolescents wait to have sex, including race, family structure, socioeconomic status, school performance, depression, how close the teens felt to their parents, and other factors.

  The negative effects of early sex seem to last through adolescence and into early adulthood.  When the same respondents were surveyed again in 2002 - when most were between the ages of 18 and 26 - results showed that the age of first sex was still associated with levels of delinquency.

  See the full study online here:
  http://springerlink.metapress.com/content/415qm4t173260t22/fulltext.pdf


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