Sexual Initiation: Predictors and Developmental Trends. (Sex Research Update)

By McKay, Alexander | The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Sexual Initiation: Predictors and Developmental Trends. (Sex Research Update)


McKay, Alexander, The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality


Rosenthal, S.L., Von Ranson, K.M., Cotton, S., Biro, F.M., Mills, L., & Succop, P.A. (2001). Sexual initiation: Predictors and developmental trends. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 28, 527-534.

A wide range of factors can affect the age at which a person first engages in sexual intercourse. Identifying and understanding the correlates and developmental changes in adolescent sexual decision making can be very helpful for the design and implementation of effective sexual health education programs.

The objective of the Rosenthal et al. study was to identify demographic and family variables that might be associated with the age of sexual initiation among young women and to determine whether the reasons that girls give for engaging in first intercourse vary with age. The sample for the study consisted of 143 girls, aged 12 to 15 years, who attended an urban adolescent medical clinic in the Midwestern United States. The participants were assessed every six months for 3 years (not all participants attended every assessment). The study examined a range of variables including IQ score, age of menarche, mother's education, mother's age at first birth, parental monitoring, family environment, and age at first consensual intercourse. The girls who had experienced intercourse were asked to respond "yes" or "no" to a list of 14 potential reasons for having sex. Responses were collected for first and most recent intercourse.

The results of the study indicated that girls who reported that their families were "expressive", had a "moral-religious emphasis", and were subject to "direct parental monitoring" were significantly more likely to be older at first intercourse. Also, girls whose mothers had more education and experienced menarche at an older age were more likely to be older at first intercourse. Few of the girls reported that they had intercourse for the first time because "I was drank or high" or "my partner was drunk or high" or "I was too excited to stop" or "My partner was too excited to stop". In addition, only 18% of girls who had first intercourse before age 15 responded "yes" to "It made me feel grown up" compared 11% for those who were 15-16 at first intercourse and 10% for those who were 17 or older. …

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