Teenage drinking is not a new trend; neither is teen sex. They might not be the most fun things to talk about, but they are part of the reality for many American families. However, a new study has looked at whether or not their may be a link between these elements. And, apparently, the study says this link certainly exists.
According to the study, teens who start drinking at younger ages tend to also have their first sexual encounter at younger ages too. And, as you might expect, while the pattern is certainly consistent between the genders, the effect is easily more noticable among younger females.
Kelly Ann Doran of Indiana University (Bloomington) comments, “Adolescents who engage in early sex have higher risks for sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancies.” The lead study author goes on to say, “Although the U.S. has seen a drop in pregnancy rates, we still have one of the highest in the Western industrialized world. It’s a big issue, and it’s important to find the risk factors that lead to risky sex.”
She also advises, “Although the US has seen a drop in pregnancy rates, we still have one of the highest in the Western industrialised world. It’s a big issue, and it’s important to find the risk factors that lead to risky sex.”
The study analyzed survey data taken from more than 8,000 male and female teens in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997. Collection of this data started when each participant was between the ages of 12 and 16, and tracked them, periodicaly, over the next 15 years.
The study showed that, on average, both boys and girls reported having their first drink before the age of 15. Also, the average age for the first sexual encounter—regardless of gender—was about the age of 16.
However, if the first drink occurred before the age of 14, it more than doubled the odds of an early sexual encounter, also regardless of gender. Also, the study showed that when females had their first drink at the age of 13 or younger, the odds for early sexual encounters quadrupled.
Doran continues, “The association is strong for both males and females,” Doran said. “It still holds (regardless of) socioeconomic status or poor parental monitoring, which could mean we see a unique risk with early drinking.”
Dr. Arielle Deutsch of Sanford Research (Sioux Falls) was not involved with the study, but comments, “With research, we sometimes think about all of these different risks as separate and have separate programs for alcohol use or teen pregnancy, but many of these behaviors are interconnected. We have to really think about all of these behaviors and what adolescents may be going through during this time in their lives.”