Background: Previous research has focused on risk factors associated with early onset of sexual intercourse among adolescents. This study hypothesizes that protective factors identified for other health compromising behaviors are also protective against early onset of sexual intercourse. The study sample included 26,023 students in grades 7-12 (87.5% white, 52.5% male) who did not report a history of sexual abuse in a statewide survey of adolescent health in 1988.
Methods: Bivariate analyses were stratified into early (13-14 years), middle (15-16 years) and late (17-18 years) adolescence and by gender. Cox proportional hazards survival analysis, stratified by gender, was used to determine risk and protective factors associated with delayed onset of sexual intercourse.
Results: Variables showing a significant bivariate association with lower levels of sexual activity across all age groups and genders were: dual-parent families, higher socioeconomic status (SES), better school performance, greater religiosity, absence of suicidal thoughts, feeling adults or parents cared, and high parental expectations. High levels of body pride were associated with higher levels of sexual activity for all age and gender groups. In the multivariate survival analyses, variables significantly associated with delayed onset of sexual activity for both males and females included: dual-parent families, higher SES, residing in rural areas, higher school performance, concerns about the community, and higher religiosity. High parental expectations were a significant protective factor for males but not for females.
Conclusion: While many protective factors are not subject to intervention, the present analyses indicate that teen pregnancy prevention may be enhanced by addressing family and educational factors.
PIP: This study examines the probability of identified protective factors of other health-compromising behaviors as protective factors against early onset of sexual intercourse based on previous research. Using a bivariate analysis, a sample of 26,023 students in grades 7-12 (87.5% White, 52.5% male) who completed a statewide adolescent health survey in 1988 without a reported sexual history were evaluated. The sample was stratified according to early (age 13-14), middle (age 15-16), and late (age 17-18) adolescence and by gender. On the other hand, the use of Cox proportional hazards survival analysis determines the risk and protective factors associated with delayed onset of sexual intercourse. Variables associated with non-initiation of sexual intercourse among genders included dual-parent families, higher socioeconomic status, rural residency, better school performance, greater religiosity, absence of suicidal thoughts, feeling that adults and parents care, and high parental expectancy. Furthermore, high parental expectations were found to be a more significant protective factor among males than females. Higher levels of sexual activity across all ages and gender groups were noted to be associated with high levels of body pride. This study concludes that the enhancement of family and educational programs would be beneficial in the prevention of teen pregnancy.