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Young Girls, Older Boyfriends & Sex

Having an Older Boyfriend -- or a Serious Boyfriend at a Young Age -- May Raise a Girl's Risk of Early Sex
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 15, 2006 -- Girls with an older boyfriend at a young age may be more likely to have sex by ninth grade.

And those with a serious boyfriend by seventh grade are also more likely to have had sex two grades later.

So says a study in June's issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Researchers included Barbara Marin, PhD, a consultant at the CDC's violence prevention division.

In their study, Marin and colleagues found that seventh grade girls who have had a serious boyfriend their own age are three times as likely to have sex by ninth grade as their less precocious classmates.

What's more, girls who'd had an older boyfriend by seventh grade were twice as likely to have had sex by ninth grade as those who'd had a same-age boyfriend by seventh grade.

'Cause for Concern'

So, the researchers want parents to take young love seriously. The findings suggest that "any 'serious' relationship in seventh grade should be cause for concern," they write.

And older boyfriends are of special concern. "Parents should be warned of the risks of interactions between middle-school females and older boyfriends, even when those boyfriends are only two years older," they write.

"Programs and parents need to find creative ways to address the risks of having an older boyfriend without making such activities appear more attractive than they already are," Marin's team continues.

About the Study

Marin's study included more than 2,200 middle-school students (1,070 boys and nearly 1,200 girls) in Northern California.

From grades six-nine, the students took annual surveys on topics including relationships and sex. The surveys varied a bit from year to year.

The sixth-grade survey asked girls if their menstrual periods had started. The researchers used that information as a marker of puberty. They didn't have a benchmark for boys' sexual maturity.

The seventh-grade survey included these questions:

  • Have you ever had a serious boyfriend or girlfriend?
  • How old was your oldest serious boyfriend or girlfriend?

The word "serious" didn't mean just sexual relationships. In fact, all the seventh-graders in Marin's study said they had never had sex.

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