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Early Sexual Initiation and Subsequent Sex-Related Risks Among Urban Minority Youth: The Reach for Health Study

March 1, 2002

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Family Planning Perspectives recently published results from the Reach for Health (RFH) Study that examines early sexual initiation and its possible relationships to risky sexual behaviors among urban minority youth.

The study included 1,287 minority seventh graders who attended one of three participating middle schools in Brooklyn, NY during two consecutive school years (1994-95 and 1995-96). Participants provided information on a range of health-related issues, including early and unprotected intercourse, violence, and substance use, at four different times during the study (seventh grade Fall, seventh grade Spring, eighth grade Spring, and tenth grade Spring).


Results

Ever Had Intercourse

Males
  • 31% of the male participants reported ever having intercourse by the Fall of seventh grade, 41% by the Spring of seventh grade, 52% by the Spring of eighth grade, and 66% by the Spring of tenth grade.

Females

  • 8% of the female participants reported ever having intercourse by the Fall of seventh grade, 13% by the Spring of seventh grade, 20% by the Fall of eighth grade, and 52% by the Spring of tenth grade.

Had "Recent" Intercourse

Males
  • 20% of the male participants reported recent intercourse in the Fall of seventh grade, 31% in the Spring of seventh grade, 39% in the Spring of eighth grade, and 54% in the Spring of tenth grade.

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Females

  • 5% of the female participants reported recent intercourse in the Fall of seventh grade, 8% in the Spring of seventh grade, 15% in the Spring of eighth grade, and 42% in the Spring of tenth grade.

Males

  • Of the participants reporting sexual experience, 85% of the males reported recent intercourse in the seventh grade, 69% in the eighth grade, and 71% in the tenth grade.

Females

  • Of the participants reporting sexual experience, 85% of the females reported recent intercourse in the seventh grade, 72% in the eighth grade, and 76% in the tenth grade.

Used a Condom Less Than Half of the Time

Males

  • Of those participants reporting sexual initiation, 25% of the males used a condom less than half of the time in the Fall of seventh grade, 30% in the Spring of seventh grade, 35% in the Spring of eighth grade, and 17% in the Spring of tenth grade.

Females

  • Of those participants reporting sexual initiation, 37% of the females used a condom less than half of the time in the Fall of seventh grade, 29% in the Spring of seventh grade, 26% in the Spring of eighth grade, and 26% in the Spring of tenth grade.

Involved in Pregnancy

Males

  • 1% of the male participants were involved in pregnancy by the Fall of seventh grade, 4% by the Spring of seventh grade, 4% by the Spring of eighth grade, and 6% by the Spring of tenth grade.

Females

  • 1% of the female participants were involved in pregnancy by the Fall of seventh grade, 1% by the Spring of seventh grade, 2% by the Spring of eighth grade, and 12% by the Spring of tenth grade.

Males

  • Of those participants reporting sexual experience, 13% of the males were involved in pregnancy by the seventh grade, 2% by the eighth grade, and 4% by the tenth grade.

Females

  • Of those participants reporting sexual experience, 33% of the females were involved in pregnancy by the seventh grade, 28% by the eighth grade, and 17% by the tenth grade.


10th Grade Population Only

Had 4 or More Sex Partners

  • Of those participants reporting sexual initiation, 54% of the males and 18% of the females reported having 4 or more sex partners in the Spring of tenth grade.

Was Drunk/High During Sex

  • Of those participants reporting recent intercourse, 26% of males 18% of females reported being drunk/high during sex in the Spring of tenth grade.

The authors note that although youth who initiate intercourse early may have more experience, they do not use condoms more consistently. These same youth also experience a disproportionate number of pregnancies.

They point out that the health and social consequences of early sexual onset are not equally distributed nationally among youth. According to the authors, the chance that a white adolescent experiences his or her first intercourse at the ages commonly reported in this sample is small. Therefore, they believe, it is clear that early sexual initiation and its subsequent pattern of risk-taking have not been receiving the attention they deserve or would get if the behaviors were more prevalent in wealthier communities.

The authors believe the assumption that early adolescents are not sexually active has resulted in serious limitations on what prevention and intervention programs can address at different developmental stages. They think a fuller understanding of various cultures, including gender roles and their link to early sexual experimentation, are essential for the development of programs that address the needs of both males and females from minority communities.

For more information: L. O’Donnell, et al., “Early Sexual Initiation and Subsequent Sex-Related Risks Among Urban Minority Youth: The Reach for Health Study,” Family Planning Perspectives, vol. 33, no. 6, pp. 268-75.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. It is a part of the publication SHOP Talk: School Health Opportunities and Progress Bulletin.
 
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