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Low-income kids report first sexual intercourse at 12 years old in new national study
Date:8/17/2009

had nearly 10 percent higher frequency of intercourse than girls and were also more likely to experience sexual debut (20 percent to 14 percent) between the two years when the first two waves of data were collected.

Recent national research has found that 13 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys have had sex by the time they're 16. Lohman says that means the rate of sex among her low-income sample is only slightly higher among the girls, but almost double among the boys

"The ages [of sexual debut] are a bit younger than the national samples, but not alarmingly so," she said.

African Americans also had 12 percent more early sexual intercourse than whites (29 to 17 percent respectively), although racial differences did not change the age of their first intercourse.

The authors report that periods of instability in family structure and welfare use serve as risk factors for early sexual activity. They found that additional maternal education -- beyond a high school level -- was found to inhibit some of that activity.

"That can be for multiple reasons," Lohman said. "It can be that mothers have better paying jobs and more stable home environment and they're less likely to be in stressful circumstances. It could also be that mothers then have greater cognitive capacities to sort of sit down and discuss the pros and cons of waiting to have sex until you're older."

For that reason, the researchers propose allotting public funding to increase maternal education as a way to reduce early sexual promiscuity among their children.

The study also found the youths' involvement in delinquent acts drastically increases the chances of early sexual activity.

Because of the gender differences in sexual debut, the authors also urge more gender-specific prevention programs that are implemented at earlier ages, especially among high risk populations.

"It may be that boys and girls, starting at younger ages
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Contact: Mike Ferlazzo
ferlazzo@iastate.edu
515-294-8986
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert

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