Timing of Sexual Debut and Initiation of Postsecondary Education by Early Adulthood
Article first published online: 2 SEP 2008
© 2008 by the Guttmacher Institute
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Volume 40, Issue 3, pages 152–161, September 2008
How to Cite
Spriggs, A. L. and Halpern, C. T. (2008), Timing of Sexual Debut and Initiation of Postsecondary Education by Early Adulthood. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 40: 152–161. doi: 10.1363/4015208
- Issue published online: 2 SEP 2008
- Article first published online: 2 SEP 2008
CONTEXT: Although sexual debut has been negatively associated with adolescent educational performance and aspirations, it is not clear whether such relationships continue beyond adolescence.
METHODS: Initiation of postsecondary education by young adulthood was assessed among 3,965 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health who had not experienced sexual intercourse at baseline. Associations between age at sexual debut and educational progress were examined in bivariate and multivariable Poisson regression analyses.
RESULTS: Most respondents experienced sexual debut during adolescence: 15% before age 16 (early) and 53% at ages 16–18 (typical). Sixty-five percent of respondents initiated postsecondary education by early adulthood; however, the proportion was significantly lower among those who had had an early (49%) or typical sexual debut (63%) than among those who debuted late (78%). In unadjusted analyses, early and typical debut were associated with a reduced likelihood of initiation of postsecondary education for both females (relative risk ratios, 0.6 and 0.8, respectively) and males (0.7 and 0.8). However, in adjusted analyses, the associations were attenuated for females (0.8 and 0.9) and were at best marginally significant for males. Childbearing was a significant mediator of this relationship.
CONCLUSIONS: Adolescent sexual debut appears to be modestly negatively associated with early adult postsecondary education initiation, particularly for females. Targeting mediators of the sexual debut–education relationship, such as early childbearing, could lead to effective interventions.