Volume 44, Issue 4
Pages 218 - 227

Associations Between Patterns of Emerging Sexual Behavior and Young Adult Reproductive Health


Identifying young adult outcomes associated with adolescent sexual behavior, including patterns of first oral, vaginal and anal sex, is critical to promoting healthy sexual development.


Associations between patterns of emerging sexual behavior, defined using latent class analysis, and young adult sexual and reproductive health were examined among 9,441 respondents to Waves 1 (1994–1995), 3 (2001–2002) and 4 (2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Logistic regression analyses examined associations between class membership and young adult outcomes, and tested for interactions by race and ethnicity.


Compared with respondents who initiated vaginal sex first and reported other sexual behaviors within two years, those who initiated oral and vaginal sex during the same year had similar odds of having had an STD diagnosis ever or in the last year, of having had concurrent sexual partnerships in the last year and of having exchanged sex for money. However, respondents who postponed sexual activity had reduced odds of each outcome (odds ratios, 0.2–0.4); those who initiated vaginal sex and reported only one type of sexual behavior had reduced odds of reporting STD diagnoses and concurrent partnerships (0.4–0.6). Respondents who reported early initiation of sexual activity combined with anal sex experience during adolescence had elevated odds of having had concurrent partnerships (1.6). The data suggest racial and ethnic disparities even when patterns of emerging sexual behavior were the same.


Patterns of early sexual behavior considered high-risk may not predict poor sexual and reproductive health in young adulthood.

DOI: 10.1363/4421812

Authors' Affiliations

Abigail A. Haydon is American Association for the Advancement of Science/ American Psychological Association executive branch fellow, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. Amy H. Herring is professor, Department of Biostatistics, and faculty fellow; and Carolyn Tucker Halpern is professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health, and faculty fellow—both at the Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

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