The large majority of study participants were White. "Among this group, peer characteristics were found to represent a crucial factor for explaining why at-risk girls living in disadvantaged neighborhoods are more likely to initiate sex early," said ric Lacourse, senior author of the study and a Universit de Montral sociology professor. "During adolescence, peers exert significant influences on different aspects of adolescent behavior and our study results show that sexuality is no exception."
At-risk girls vulnerable; boys unaffected
For this study, conduct problems were self-reported in late childhood or when participants were 10 or 11 years old. At-risk behaviors included physical aggression (e.g. bullying, fighting, kicking), destructive tendencies (e.g. vandalism, stealing) and violation of rules (e.g. running away, staying out all night). Subjects were considered to have conduct problems if they had engaged in three at-risk behaviors over one year. Of the sample, 13 percent were considered to have conduct problems.
Living in a disadvantaged neighborhood among boys was not directly associated with the timing of sexual initiation. "Contrary to girls for whom peers were of primary importance, family and individual risk appeared more influential in boys' timing their first sexual experience," said Dupr.
Study helpful for sex ed
Identifying when and why young girls become sexually active, said Dupr, is important in a public health perspective. "Other studies show that early initiators are more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases, undergo unwanted teen pregnancy and to report involuntary sexual experiences," she said.
"By identifying young adolescents who are particularly at-risk, this study provides valuable insights for future intervention efforts," add
|Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins|
University of Montreal