Associations between early first sexual intercourse and later sexual and reproductive outcomes: a systematic review of population-based data

Arch Sex Behav. 2015 Apr;44(3):531-69. doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0374-3. Epub 2014 Nov 26.


The assumption that early sexual debut leads to adverse outcomes has been used as justification for sexual health interventions and policies aimed at delaying sexual initiation, yet research in the area has been limited. This review identified and synthesized published literature on the association between early first sexual intercourse and later sexual/reproductive outcomes. Literature searches were conducted in Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Current Contents. In all, 65 citations met the selection criteria (industrialized, population-based studies). By far the most common sexual behavior to have been investigated has been sexual partners. Studies consistently reported early first intercourse to be associated with more recent, lifetime, and concurrent sexual partners. Early initiators were also more likely to participate in a wider range of sexual practices and report increased sexual satisfaction (among men). Furthermore, early first intercourse, in some studies, was shown to increase the risk of teen pregnancies, teen births, and having an abortion, while findings on STIs and contraceptive use have been mixed. These findings, however, must be interpreted with caution due to methodological problems and limitations present in the research, including a lack of consensus on what constitutes early sexual intercourse and inconsistencies and problems with analyses.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Coitus*
  • Contraception Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / prevention & control
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control