Background: Cigarette/alcohol use and premarital sex, and their subsequent consequences on the well-being of college students, are international health promotion issues. However, little is known about the temporal relationship of these risk behaviors among Taiwanese college students.
Methods: This study utilizes data from the Taiwan Youth Project, a cohort sample of 20-year-olds (N = 2,119) with a 2-year follow-up, to explore the relationship between adolescent cigarette/alcohol use, and subsequent premarital sex. To incorporate the Taiwanese context where the normative value of abstinence until marriage remains strong, multivariate logistic regression models included data on premarital sex attitudes, stressful life events, peer influence, as well as family and individual factors which might influence this relationship.
Results: The sample consists of 49% male and 51% female college students. About 16% of the sample report having had premarital sex by age 20. After excluding sexually active youth, 20% of males and 13% of females report engaging in premarital sex in the 2-year follow-up interview. Multivariate logistic regression analyses reveal adolescent alcohol use is significantly associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in premarital sex for both genders; adolescent smoking is significantly associated with premarital sexual activity among males, but not females. Our results indicate liberal premarital sexual attitudes and stressful personal events are also significantly associated with premarital sexual activity.
Conclusions: These findings suggest health promotion programs for college students need to take developmental and gender perspectives into account. Future research to incorporate a broader, multi-cultural context into risk reduction materials is recommended.