The average age of sexual initiation is roughly between 16 and 19. Although some teens wait until much later, many begin engaging in sexual behavior before the age of 15. Numerous studies have looked at the negative consequences associated with early sexual initiation, such as emotional problems, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, and intimate partner violence. But recently, researchers at the University of Texas looked at how sexual-initiation age could benefit people later in life. In a study led by Paige Harden, 1,659 sibling pairs were evaluated from middle adolescence through young adulthood. They were asked when they began having sexual intercourse, how many partners they had, and, if they were in current relationships, how happy they were.
Harden found that the participants who were in satisfying, committed relationships in adulthood were those that started having sex in their late teens or early twenties. These individuals reported less relationship conflict and more respect, affection, and love for their partners than the participants who had earlier sexual-initiation ages. Harden tested this outcome further by including factors such as physical appearance, body mass index, and education and came up with the same results. She believes that people who begin sexual activity after they have reached physical and cognitive maturity may make better partner decisions and be more discriminating in their choices. They may also have stronger communication skills that can benefit their overall relationship.
The results of this study don’t suggest that earlier sexual initiation can increase negative outcomes. Rather, these findings demonstrate that being a late bloomer can act as a protective factor. “We still don’t understand precisely why delaying sexual intercourse is correlated with more satisfied adult relationships,” Harden said. She hopes that future research will look at the flip side of her study, and in particular if early sexual activity among teens decreases their chances of having satisfying, positive relationships in adulthood.
Ochsner, David. Does true love wait? Age of first sexual experience predicts romantic outcomes in adulthood. (n.d.): n. pag. The University of Texas at Austin. 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. http://www.utexas.edu/news/2012/10/18/does-true-love-wait-age-of-first-sexual-experience-predicts-romantic-outcomes-in-adulthood/
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