Early sex may lead to less antisocial behaviour later

Teens who have sex at an early age may not be on the path to self-ruin, but it seems the outcomes might be more positive for those in a committed relationship rather than indulging in casual sex.

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A study has found that teens who have sex at an early age may be less inclined to exhibit delinquent behavior in early adulthood than their peers who waited until they were older to have sex. The study also suggests that early sex may play a role in helping these teens develop better social relationships in early adulthood.

“We got a very surprising finding, and now we want to find out why,” said Kathryn Paige Harden, lead author of the University of Virginia study.

“Our hypothesis is that intimate relationships might protect them from becoming involved in delinquent acts later”

Professor Harden says further investigations will look closely at the contexts of early teen sexual activity, such as the types of relationships, whether they were casual or intimate, how old the partners were, where the sex occurred and why, and how long the relationships lasted. She and her colleagues will then try to relate that to later behaviours and attitudes.

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“Our hypothesis as a result of this finding is that teens who become involved in intimate romantic relationships early are having sex early and more often, but that those intimate relationships might protect them from becoming involved in delinquent acts later.”

“..in Australia, there are similar rates and patterns of teen sexual activity as in the US, but drastically lower rates of teen pregnancy”

Professor Harden does acknowledge that early adolescent sexuality is linked to early pregnancy and disease, but these risks are not inevitable. She notes that in other Western countries, such as Australia, there are similar rates and patterns of teen sexual activity as in the United States, but drastically lower rates of teen pregnancy. She attributes this to a poor level of sexual health knowledge in the United States, ineffective contraceptive use and lower abortion rates.

The finding,  published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, contradicts parts of a study published earlier in 2007 in the same journal that found a connection between early teen sex and later behavioural problems.



  1. Just revisiting this story from earlier in the year….I am wondering what age is considered to be ‘early teen’ is it 13, 14 or 15?

    • Good question Helen. I had a look for the study, and they split the subjects up into two age groups: 13-15, and 16-18. It states: “Results indicated that, for both younger and older adolescents, common underlying genes influence both sexual behavior and delinquency. After controlling for these genetic influences, there was no within-twin pair association between sexual activity and delinquency in younger adolescents. In older adolescents, sexual activity that occurred in romantic relationships predicted lower levels of delinquency, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, whereas sexual activity in non-romantic relationships predicted higher levels of delinquency. These results are consistent with emerging research that suggests that the psychological correlates of adolescent sexual activity may be moderated by the social context in which this activity occurs.” I have added the link to the study to the story above. Hope this helps.

  2. Thank you.



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