Young Teenagers and Older Sexual Partners: Correlates and Consequences for Males and Females

Authors

  • Jennifer Manlove,

    1. Jennifer Manlove is senior research associate, Elizabeth Terry-Humen is research associate and Erum Ikramullah is senior research assistant-all with Child Trends, Washington, DC.
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  • Elizabeth Terry-Humen,

    1. Jennifer Manlove is senior research associate, Elizabeth Terry-Humen is research associate and Erum Ikramullah is senior research assistant-all with Child Trends, Washington, DC.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Erum Ikramullah

    1. Jennifer Manlove is senior research associate, Elizabeth Terry-Humen is research associate and Erum Ikramullah is senior research assistant-all with Child Trends, Washington, DC.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • The research on which this article is based was supported by grant FPR006015-01 from the Office of Population Affairs of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The conclusions and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funding agency. The authors thank Kristin Moore and Suzanne Ryan for their helpful reviews of early drafts of this article.

Abstract

CONTEXT: Limited nationally representative information exists on the characteristics of teenagers who had first sex at an early age with an older partner.

METHODS: Gender-specific analyses were conducted of 2002 National Survey of Family Growth data from 1,838 females and 1,426 males aged 18-24. Multivariate analyses examined the associations between family and individual characteristics and having a first sexual experience before age 16 with an older partner, and between age and partners’age difference at first sex and contraceptive use and having or fathering a child as a teenager.

RESULTS: Sex at a young age with an older partner was associated with not living with a biological parent at age 14 and Hispanic ethnicity for females and males, early menarche and religious attendance for females, and black race for males. Among females and males, first sex by age 16 was negatively associated with contraceptive use at first sex (odds ratios, 0.7 for each) and positively associated with a teenage birth (1.6 and 2.9, respectively); having an older first partner was associated with poor reproductive health outcomes among females. Among females, the combination of young age and an older partner at first sex was positively associated with having a teenage birth. Among males, sex before age 16 with an older partner was associated with more than twice the odds of fathering a child as a teenager compared with the odds among those who had first sex at age 16-17.

CONCLUSIONS: Interventions should target specific teenage populations, including males, to dissuade them from having sex at a young age and with older partners. Also, prevention efforts should target potential older teenage partners and adult partners of young teenagers.

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