Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Early Teen Sex May Not Be A Path To Delinquency, Study Shows

Date:
November 14, 2007
Source:
University of Virginia
Summary:
A new study by clinical psychologists has found that teens who have sex at an early age may be less inclined to exhibit delinquent behavior in early adulthood than their peers who waited until they were older to have sex. The study also suggests that early sex may play a role in helping these teens develop better social relationships in early adulthood.

A new study by University of Virginia clinical psychologists has found that teens who have sex at an early age may be less inclined to exhibit delinquent behavior in early adulthood than their peers who waited until they were older to have sex.
Credit: iStockphoto/Pali Rao

A new study by University of Virginia clinical psychologists has found that teens who have sex at an early age may be less inclined to exhibit delinquent behavior in early adulthood than their peers who waited until they were older to have sex. The study also suggests that early sex may play a role in helping these teens develop better social relationships in early adulthood.

The finding is published in the current online edition of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, and runs counter to most assumptions that relate early teen sex to later drug use, criminality, antisocial behavior and emotional problems. The finding also contradicts parts of a study published earlier this year in the same journal that found a connection between early teen sex and later behavioral problems.

The researchers analyzed data on 534 same-sex twin pairs in the United States gathered at three time points over a seven-year period. By examining surveys of twins, the investigators were able to eliminate the genetic and socio-economic variables that otherwise might influence the behaviors of adolescents.

"We got a very surprising finding, particularly that early sex seems to forecast less antisocial behavior a few years later, rather than more," said Kathryn Paige Harden, the study's lead author and a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia.

"There is a cultural assumption in the United States that if teens have sex early it is somehow bad for their psychological health," Harden said. "But we actually found that teens who had sex earlier seem to have better relationships later. Now we want to find out why."

Harden says she plans further investigations that will look closely at the contexts of early teen sexual activity, such as the types of relationships, whether they were casual or intimate, how old the partners were, where the sex occurred and why, and how long the relationships lasted. She and her colleagues will then try to relate that to 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 people's 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 Harden's 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.

In addition to Emory, Harden's collaborators include Jane Mendle and Jennifer E. Hill, also U.Va. graduate students, and Eric Turkheimer, a U.Va. professor of psychology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Virginia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Virginia. "Early Teen Sex May Not Be A Path To Delinquency, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071112140723.htm>.
University of Virginia. (2007, November 14). Early Teen Sex May Not Be A Path To Delinquency, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071112140723.htm
University of Virginia. "Early Teen Sex May Not Be A Path To Delinquency, Study Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071112140723.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming doctors for the low number of children being vaccinated for HPV. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins