Sexual initiation among adolescent girls and boys: trends and differentials in sub-Saharan Africa

Arch Sex Behav. 2003 Feb;32(1):41-53. doi: 10.1023/a:1021841312539.


This paper examined trends in adolescent sexual initiation in sub-Saharan Africa, with emphasis on differentials in social determinants across gender and contexts. Data were drawn from Demographic and Health Surveys in 8 countries that had at least 2 surveys conducted approximately 5 years apart, each with distinct questionnaires for women and men of reproductive age regardless of marital status. The data were useful both for testing of substantive hypotheses about the correlates of adolescent sexual intercourse as well as for elaborating sexual health interventions in contexts of development. The main analytical tool was multivariate logistic models using a generalized estimating equation to consider the probability of a young man or young woman having first intercourse during adolescence. In some countries, observed declines over time in the proportion of adolescents having had sex were not statistically significant after taking into account changes in background characteristics, especially education. Important gender differentials were also found. While secondary schooling was associated with lower probability of early sex among girls in all countries, the relationship was often in the opposite direction among boys. Influences of other sociodemographic and community status variables were generally less important.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adult
  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Coitus
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Culture
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires