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
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
"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.
Early 'Serious' Relationships
And, "In seventh grade, about half of both males and females reported
never having had a serious boyfriend or girlfriend," the researchers
That means about half the students had had what they considered a serious
Most of those students reported having relationships with people their own
age. Of the boys who'd had a serious girlfriend, 47% said their girlfriend was
their age. Among girls who'd had a serious boyfriend, 31% said their boyfriend
was their age.
When there was an age difference, girls were more likely to be the younger
person. Eighteen percent of girls reported having had a boyfriend at least two
years older than they were. About 6% of the boys reported having a girlfriend
that much older than they.