Academic journal article International Family Planning Perspectives

Correlates of Premarital Relationships among Unmarried Youth in Pune District, Maharashtra, India

Academic journal article International Family Planning Perspectives

Correlates of Premarital Relationships among Unmarried Youth in Pune District, Maharashtra, India

Article excerpt

CONTEXT: Although premarital partnerships--whether or not they involve sex--are widely discouraged in India, some youth do form such partnerships. It is important to know more about the nature of and the factors associated with these relationships.

METHODS: Data are drawn from a community-based study of 15-24-year-olds in urban slum and rural settings in Pune District, Maharashtra. Multivariate analyses were conducted to identify associations between youths' individual, peer and family factors and their experience of romantic relationships and physical intimacy, including intercourse.

RESULTS: Among young men, 17-24% had had a romantic relationship, 20-26% had engaged in some form of physical intimacy and 16-18% had had sex; the proportions among young women were 5-8%, 4-6% and 1-2%, respectively. Exposure to alcohol, drugs or pornographic films and having more frequent interaction with peers were positively associated with romantic and sexual relationships for both young women and young men. Educational attainment was negatively associated with both types of relationships for young women, but only with sexual relationships for young men. Closeness to parents was negatively associated with relationships only for young women. Young women whose father beat their mother were more likely than other young women to form romantic partnerships, and those beaten by their family had an elevated risk of entering romantic and sexual partnerships. Youth who reported strict parental supervision were no less likely than others to enter relationships.

CONCLUSIONS: Program interventions should ensure that youth are fully informed and equipped to make safe choices and negotiate wanted outcomes, while positively influencing their peer networks; encourage closer interaction between parents and children; and be tailored to the different circumstances and experiences of young women and men. International Family Planning Perspectives, 2007, 33(4):150-159


Premarital partnerships among youth, including those not involving sexual intercourse, are widely discouraged in India; yet, despite strict sanctions, including parental violence, loss of reputation and swiftly arranged marriages to someone other than the romantic partner, up to 10% of young women and 15-30% of young men form such partnerships. (1-6) A review of the literature suggests that little is known about the nature of these relationships, (1) such as whether they are romantic or casual, or how individual, family, peer and community factors are associated with partnership formation.

This article aims to address these gaps in evidence by describing the romantic and sexual relationships of unmarried youth in one slum and one rural setting in Pune, India, and by identifying factors associated with their formation. The findings are intended to inform program planners about the range of romantic and sexual relationships experienced by young women and men, and thereby contribute to the design of evidence-based interventions to reduce risky behaviors in this population.


Evidence on factors associated with sexual relations among unmarried youth is sparse. Indeed, a global review concludes that the identification of factors that inhibit or facilitate safe sexual behavior among young women and men is an urgent issue for research. (7)

The research that is available, which comes largely from developed countries, has identified a number of factors associated with risky or safe premarital sexual relations. Key factors relating to the individual that appear protective against unsafe sex include skills in problem solving, decision making and negotiation, and feelings of self-worth; (8-11) on the other hand, substance use and exposure to pornographic materials have been found to be inversely associated with safe sex. (10,12)

The literature suggests, however, that although individual attributes are important in preventing negative outcomes, a supportive environment--particularly a young person's family, school and peer network--is equally important. …

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