Volume 49, Issue 2
Pages 77 - 83

Associations of Partner Age Gap at Sexual Debut with Teenage Parenthood and Lifetime Number of Partners

CONTEXT

Age at sexual debut and age gap between partners at debut are modifiable characteristics that may be related to risky sexual behaviors. Understanding any such relationships is a necessary first step toward strengthening risk interventions.

METHODS

Age at sexual debut and partner age gap were examined for 3,154 female and 2,713 male respondents to the 2011–2013 National Survey of Family Growth who first had intercourse before age 18. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess associations between these measures and teenage parenthood and reporting a high lifetime number of partners (i.e., a number above the sample median).

RESULTS

Females’ odds of teenage parenthood were elevated if sexual debut occurred at ages 15–17 and involved a partner age gap of 3–4 years (odds ratio, 1.8) or more (2.0); they were reduced if debut occurred before age 15 and the gap was 3–4 years (0.8). Females’ likelihood of reporting a high lifetime number of partners was negatively associated with age gap (0.4–0.7, depending on age at debut and length of age gap). Males’ likelihood of reporting a large number of partners was positively associated with age gap if sexual debut was before age 15 and the gap was five or more years (1.7) or if debut was at ages 15–17 and involved a 3–4-year gap (2.0).

CONCLUSION

Identifying the mechanisms underlying these associations could inform program design and implementation.

Authors' Affiliations

Saba W. Masho is Professor at the Department of Family Medicine, Population Health, Division of Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. Gregory J. Chambers and Jordyn T. Wallenborn are Research assistants at the Department of Family Medicine, Population Health, Division of Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. Jacquelyn L. Ferrance is Project evaluator at the Department of Family Medicine, Population Health, Division of Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond.

Disclaimer
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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