Neighborhood Poverty and Early Transition to Sexual Activity in Young Adolescents: A Developmental Ecological Approach


  • This study was based on the doctoral dissertation of the first author, who was supported by a scholarship from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The authors wish to thank Eric Dion and anonymous reviewers for comments on previous drafts. The research and analysis are based on data from Statistics Canada, and the opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of Statistics Canada.

concerning this article should be addressed to Eric Lacourse, Département de Sociologie, Université de Montreal, CP 6128, succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C-3J7. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined how the link between neighborhood poverty and the timing of sexual initiation varies as a function of age, gender, and background characteristics. A sample of N = 2,596 predominately White Canadian adolescents from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth was used. Sexual initiations occurring between 12 and 15 years old were considered. Results showed that younger adolescent females who lived in poor neighborhoods and who had a history of conduct problems were more likely to report early sexual activity. Peer characteristics partly accounted for this susceptibility. Among adolescent males, no direct neighborhood effects were found, but those who had combined risks at multiple levels appeared more vulnerable. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.