Early age of first sexual intercourse and depressive symptomatology among adolescents

J Sex Res. 2011 Sep;48(5):450-60. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2010.509892. Epub 2011 May 24.


Past literature has provided conflicting evidence for the association between adolescent sexual intercourse and depressive symptomatology. Whereas some studies conclude that sexually active youth may be at risk for depression, others provide contrary results. Thus, it is unclear as to whether depression results directly from coitus or if this relationship is explained by other factors-that is, there may be biological, psychological, or sociological predictors of both depressive symptomatology and early sexual intercourse. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health dataset, depressive symptomatology in adolescents over a seven-year time period was analyzed. The final sample (n = 6,510) was comprised of 49.35% male (n = 3,213) and 50.65% female (n = 3,297) participants. Although an earlier age of first coitus was predictive of future depressive symptoms, both variables appear to be concomitant outcomes of the biopsychosocial process. Thus, although one may be able to use early coitus as a marker for subsequent depressive symptomatology, it does not appear to occur because of early sexual intercourse. Furthermore, the reverse relationship was not found to be significant in this study-that is, higher levels of previous depressive symptomatology did not predict an earlier age of first sexual intercourse in adolescents.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Coitus / psychology*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Ethnicity / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Schools
  • Social Support
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult