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

March 1, 2002

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

Females

Had "Recent" Intercourse

Males

Females

Males

Females

Used a Condom Less Than Half of the Time

Males

Females

Involved in Pregnancy

Males

Females

Males

Females


10th Grade Population Only

Had 4 or More Sex Partners

Was Drunk/High During Sex

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.




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