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Early teen sex may not be a path to delinquency, study shows
Date:11/12/2007

o later behaviors and attitudes.

Our hypothesis as a result of this finding is that teens who become involved in intimate romantic relationships early are having sex early and more often, but that those intimate relationships might later protect them from becoming involved in delinquent acts later, Harden said. People assume there is an association between early sex and later delinquency. It could be because teen sex transgresses parental expectations and is seen as impulsive or influenced by peer pressure. But peoples concerns about early sex leading to delinquency may not be warranted.

Harden does acknowledge that early adolescent sexuality is linked to early pregnancy and disease, but these risks are not inevitable. She notes that in other Western countries, such as Australia, there are similar rates and patterns of teen sexual activity as in the United States, but drastically lower rates of teen pregnancy. She attributes this to a poor level of sexual health knowledge in the United States, ineffective contraceptive use and lower abortion rates.

What we may have found is that strong relationships encourage pro-social instead of antisocial behavior, said Hardens advisor and co-author, Robert Emory, a U.Va. professor of psychology. A thought experiment on this point is, if teens got married early, they would be sexually active early, but likely would engage in less antisocial behavior later.

Harden and her colleagues mined their data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative study designed to assess adolescent health and risk behavior. The data is gleaned from extensive surveys of teens that were collected in three waves between 1994 and 2002.


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Contact: Kathryn Paige Harden
434-982-4712
University of Virginia
Source:Eurekalert

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