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Keywords:

  • extracurricular activities;
  • coital debut;
  • religious involvement;
  • sex-related behaviors

Research finds that religious youth, compared to less religious youth, are more likely to delay their sexual debut (sometimes until marriage). This study is one of the first to examine the influence of involvement in religion-supported secular activities for shaping initiation into vaginal sex. Does involvement in religion-sponsored secular programs produce any health-related benefits for youth? Using two waves of data from the National Study of Youth and Religion this study finds that among teens who have engaged in some of the precursors to first sex, namely, sexual touching, involvement in religion-sponsored secular activities is associated with lower odds of having first sex between W1 and W2. Conservative attitudes about sex outside of marriage explain, in part, the relationship. Conversely, network overlap, the number of friends who belong to a youth group, and pressure from friends and partners to have sex do not significantly mediate the relationship.