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Interdisciplinary Seminar Q & A

Spring 1998

Precocious Sexual Initiation as an Indicator of Risk

The questions below are based on a seminar presented January 21 by Gary M. Ingersoll as part of the Kinsey Institute's Interdisciplinary Seminar Series. Ingersoll is professor of counseling and educational psychology and director of the Center for Adolescent Studies at Indiana University Bloomington.

What relation did you find between precocious sexual activity and behavioral risk factors?

In this study of 240 pre- and early adolescents, ages 11 to 13, more than 8% of the participants reported having had sexual intercourse (13.3% of males and 4% of females). The study revealed that nonvirgin youths were approximately
  • 7.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes,
  • 10 times more likely to use alcohol,
  • 46 times more likely to use marijuana, and
  • 34.5 times more likely to use other drugs.
Nonvirgin youths were almost 6 times more likely to have planned to drop out of school and 54 times more likely to have been suspended from school. Less than 1% of the virgins had been suspended while 20% of the nonvirgins had been suspended. Nonvirgins were almost 12 times more likely to have attempted suicide. Nonvirgin participants were 3 times more likely to report a history of physical abuse and 19 times more likely to report a history of sexual abuse.

What conclusions do you draw from this data?

While this study does not demonstrate a causal relationship, the data offer a compelling picture that precocious initiation of sexual intercourse is part of a pattern of increased risky behaviors.

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