Predictors of sexual debut at age 16 or younger

Arch Sex Behav. 2010 Jun;39(3):664-73. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9397-y. Epub 2008 Oct 10.


The present study examined the extent to which variables within the self system (i.e., symptoms of alcohol dependence and conduct disorder, gender, race, and metropolitan status) and the familial system (i.e., having an alcohol dependent biological parent or second-degree relative, religious background, educational background of parents, and being born to a teenage mother) were associated with sexual debut at 16 years old or earlier. Participants were 1,054 biological relatives, aged 18-25 years, of alcohol dependent probands who participated in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism project. Comparison participants (N = 234) without alcohol dependent biological parents were also evaluated. Clinical and sociodemographic variables were assessed by structured, personal interviews. Parental history of alcohol dependence was evaluated by direct interview of parents in most cases and family history in uninterviewed parents. In a multivariate survival analysis, increased risk of becoming sexually active at 16 years of age or earlier was significantly associated with 6 of the 10 predictor variables, including race, one or more alcohol dependence symptoms, and/or one or more conduct disorder symptoms. Having an alcohol dependent biological parent or second-degree relative (e.g., aunt, uncle, or grandparent), educational background of mother, and being born to a teenage mother were also significantly associated with increased risk. These results provide evidence that specific variables in the self and familial systems of influence are important in predicting sexual debut at 16 years old or earlier.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parents / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult