For many kids and parents, it is a question that lingers: is there a right time to begin having sex?
Although there is quite a bit of stigma surrounding the thought of when someone should have their first sexual experience, majority of young people begin having sex in the U.S. well before what is considered to be adulthood. In a psychological study conducted in 2012, there was standards put on participants debuting them to be classified as “early” if their sexual experience began before the age of 15, “normative” if it occurred between 15 and 19 years old, and “late” if it occurs after 19 years of age. The study went through “waves”: Wave I, Wave II, Wave III, and Wave IV. Each wave was conducted at different periods of times for the participants; they were asked about their sexual experiences at each increment of time.
This study arises the question: does the age of when you begin to have sexual experiences complicate later life experiences? To answer this question, a study reported in Developmental Psychology highlighted the pros and cons of having sex at different stages or “waves”.
It is an essential part of a person’s beginning sexual experiences to recognize the potential risks of sexual interactions such as pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. The first encounters a person has can be a point in their lives which establishes what they consider to be normal sexual relations and pairings; research consistently shows that those who are sexually active before the age of 15 are much less likely to use a form of birth control than those who are in the “normative” or “late” groups. It is also documented that those who fall into the early group are also more likely to have a history of emotional issues and substance abuse. However, this study does not determine the correlation between substance abuse and/or emotional problems with sexual debuts. The waves that are recorded are merely snapshots of a person’s life; it does not provide determination for the association between the cross-sectional observances.
In regards to gender, early starter males are more likely to show aggressiveness as well as display antisocial behavior than later starters. While as early starting females are more prone to depression than late starters, and display more shame and guilt than males tend to. Although these are all negative attributions towards having sex early, most males and females tend to view their first-time sex as a positive experience.
Providing such information, what is the positive side of adolescent sex? There is an extended amount of studies that show adult sexuality provides psychological benefits such as stress relief and positive health benefits. Yet, extending these types of studies into the adolescent age group is quite controversial. To take a closer look at the positive and negative features of first-time sex in adolescents, the study published in Developmental Psychology observed a group of 200 tenth-grade students – 100 males and 100 females – for 18 months. These students were selected carefully to best represent the racial and ethnic distribution in the United States.
Those being observed in the study conducted by Rachel Lynn Golden had taken standardized tests which measured individuals drug use, self-worth, and mental health status as well as completing questionnaires about their dating history, sexual behavior, dating satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction. To ensure their honesty as well as more objective viewpoints, the participant’s mother and a close friend chosen by each participant were asked to evaluate their (the participant’s) psychological competence, substance abuse, and romantic appeal. Participants that had still not begun to be sexually active after 18 months were dropped from the analysis, as well as participants who dropped out of the study. In this longitudinal study, researchers had the advantage of analyzing how participants behavior – whether they were considered to be early, normative, or late – all seemed to steady off and disappear in differences following five or six years after high school.
As Golden and her coauthors discuss in her study, it is not clear whether the early introduction to sexual experience during adolescence influences how an individual will develop throughout their life or influence choices they make, such as substance abuse or displaying antisocial behavior.
From this study, results showed that early sexual debuts had tended to be correlated with a higher risk of emotional problems such as depression, antisocial behavior, loneliness, and increased aggression. It also showed association of adolescence being more likely to have a substance abuse problem. However, early sexual interactions also had positive relations such as greater romantic appeal, greater sexual satisfaction (for males), and greater dating satisfaction (for males). Females in this study showed little to no difference in sexual and dating satisfaction among early, normative, and late sexual encounters. It can be theorized that females do not have the same results as males because of the general social beliefs about female sexuality.
A definite result that this study suggests is that adolescents who delay their first sexual experience towards the “normative” or “late” stages tend to make more mature decisions regarding the use of contraception and overall protection. This result highlights the importance of sex education programs; the more information given to adolescence regarding to sex, the better they are equipped to make better decisions in protecting themselves by acknowledging the possible risks of sex. It is important for young people to be equipped with the appropriate knowledge so that they can make their own (informative) decisions when the time comes.
Media Production Reflection
When writing this paper, I found it to be very challenging to rewrite a new summary of the research article. Whenever I was critiquing the article originally, one of the things I seemed to highly criticize about their flaws within their paper was how much information they left out in their summary. However, I seemed to have the same problem. With a word limit put on the research article being published, it is difficult to include all the aspects the original study that was issued. Because of the limitations, it appears that my article and the news article that was published over the research article is very similar in what is believed to be the most important aspects discussed in the study. There was much more data and other analyzed areas within the original research that was left out because of the word limit. This information includes how there was a sibling comparison of first sexual intercourse, the dating involvement being observed, demographics that were in consideration, how individuals were later rated on physical attributes, and the satisfaction rates of relationships, marriage, and overall life based on their first sexual encounters. In a journalist’s perspective, there are more obstacles a person must take under consideration when they are critiquing their published work. It is difficult to include all parts that deem to be important within the original published document in their own because of the limitations that is put on their writing. However, it should be assumed that they are relaying the information out of the research article to their audience that they reason to be the most important.
Harden, P. K. (2012). Psychological Science. True Love Waits? A Sibling-Comparison Study of Age at First Sexual Intercourse and Romantic Relationships in Young Adulthood. Retrieved May 8, 2017, from http://pss.sagepub.com/content/23/11/1324
Vitelli, R., Ph.D. (2016). Is There a Right Age to Begin Having Sex? Retrieved May 8, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201611/is-there-right-age-begin-having-sex.