Parents' Support and Knowledge of Their Daughters' Lives, and Females' Early Sexual Initiation In Nine European Countries


  • Aubrey Spriggs Madkour,

    Assistant professor, Corresponding author
    • Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans
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  • Tilda Farhat,

    Postdoctoral scholar
    1. Prevention Research Branch, Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD
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  • Carolyn Tucker Halpern,

    1. Department of Maternal and Child Health, and Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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  • Saoirse nic Gabhainn,

    1. Health Promotion Centre, School of Health Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway
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  • Emmanuelle Godeau

    1. Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U1027, University of Toulouse III, France
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Associations between early sexual initiation and parental support and knowledge have not been uniformly tested in multiple European population-based samples. Understanding such associations is important in efforts to discourage females’ early sex.


Data were compiled for 7,466 females aged 14–16 who participated in the 2005–2006 Health Behaviors in School-Aged Children survey in nine countries (Austria, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Lithuania, Romania, Spain and Ukraine). Univariate, bivariate and multivariable analyses were run with standard error corrections and weights to assess how sexual initiation before age 16 was related to maternal and paternal support and knowledge of daily activities.


Prevalence of early sexual initiation ranged from 7% (in Romania) to 35% (in Iceland). In bivariate analyses, maternal and paternal support were significantly negatively related to adolescent females’ early sexual initiation in most countries. In models with demographic controls, parental support was negatively associated with early sexual initiation (odds ratio, 0.8 for maternal and 0.7 for paternal). After parental knowledge was added, early sexual initiation was no longer associated with parental support, but was negatively associated with maternal and paternal knowledge (0.7 for each). These patterns held across countries.


Parental knowledge largely explained negative associations between parental support and early initiation, suggesting either that knowledge is more important than support or that knowledge mediates the association between support and early sex.