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Adolescent Sexual Onset: An Intergenerational Analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 36 Issue: 7 Dated: October 2007 Pages: 939-949
Katherine A. Johnson; Kimberly A. Tyler
Date Published
October 2007
11 pages
This study examined the structural and parental process variables that predict sexual onset.
Results indicate that the age at which youth initiate sexual intercourse is related to the structural characteristics of their grandmothers and mothers, as well as puberty, gender, and race. The structural characteristics of grandmothers’ and mothers’ behavior are associated with adolescents’ behavior, as they are associated with the timing of sexual onset among adolescent males and females; the behaviors of previous generations continue to impact current generations thereby supporting the concept of liked lives, or the embedded social relationships with kin across life spans. Grandmothers who were more educated tended to have grandchildren who delayed sexual onset; this relationship was both direct and indirect via the age of mothers at the birth of their first child. Possibly, grandmothers who are more educated are better able to articulate to their daughters the dangers of unprotected sex, and the virtues of delaying childbearing until they are older. In turn, mothers who delay intercourse and by default delay childbearing, are likely to have children who delay intercourse as well. This is consistent with previous research that has found that children of teen mothers are likely to become sexually active at younger ages. Analyses were based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. The sample included 2, 494 youth who were 12-13 years of age as of the date of the interview in 1997; 48 percent were female, 25 percent were Black, 21 percent were Hispanic, 54 percent were non-Black/non-Hispanic. The weakness or the survey design is that information on the target youths’ fathers and grandfathers was not available. Figure, appendix, references