Premature sexual activity as an indicator of psychosocial risk (abstract)

DP Orr, M Beiter and G Ingersoll

Department of Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis.

Although unprotected premature sexual activity is associated with well-defined biologic risks of sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy, the concomitant psychosocial risks are less well documented. The strength of association (odds ratio) of coital status with other risk behaviors and feelings was examined in 1504 junior high school students. Among the 12 through 16-year-old students, 63% of the boys and 36% of the girls were nonvirginal (had had intercourse at least once). The proportion of sexually experienced boys and girls increased with age. Nonvirginal boys and girls were significantly (P less than .001) more likely than their virginal cohorts to engage in other activities considered risky. The odds ratios for nonvirginal youth ranged from 3.5 for girls having used drugs other than alcohol or marijuana, to 10.4 for girls having used marijuana. Nonvirginal boys and girls were also at significantly greater risk for engaging in minor delinquent acts and having school problems. Nonvirginal girls (but not boys) were 6.3 times more likely to report having attempted suicide. The strength of associations with feelings was weaker. Nonvirginal girls were at slightly greater risk for reporting feeling lonely, feeling upset, and having difficulty sleeping. A significant proportion of the students reported sexual experience and ever use of alcohol or marijuana (45% of boys, 27% of girls). There were strong age effects so that by age 15 years, 63% of the boys and 50% of the girls reported experience with both activities. The data suggest that early sexual experience among adolescents is associated with other potentially health-endangering behaviors and that the syndrome of problem behaviors is important in this age group.

Volume 87, Issue 2, pp. 141-147, 02/01/1991

Copyright © 1991 by The American Academy of Pediatrics

PMID: 1987525, UI: 91102018