Category: Parenting / Families
While sexual activity during adolescence is not inherently problematic, early sexual debut has been associated with an increase in negative outcomes, including higher incidence of non-consensual sexual experiences (De Graaf, Kruijer, Van Acker, & Meijer, 2012), higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (Kaestle, Halpern, Miller, & Ford, 2005), and more risky sexual practices (e.g., sex without a condom, multiple sexual partners; Stone & Ingham, 2002). Previous research has demonstrated that adolescent depression (Longmore et al., 2004; Monahan & Lee, 2008; Sprigs & Halpern, 2008) and externalizing behaviors (Boislard, Dussault, Brendgen, & Vitaro, 2013; McLeod & Knight, 2010; Parkes et al., 2014) are associated with earlier onset of sexual behaviors, while adolescent anxiety may be associated with delay of sexual initiation, especially for boys (Capaldi et al., 1996). Several family factors have been associated with earlier initiation of sexual activity, including maternal rejection (Whitbeck et al., 1999), lack of parental supervision and support, and poor quality of parent-child relationship (Roche et al., 2005) are associated with earlier initiation of sexual activity. To date, however, little research has examined the role of parental psychopathology in initiation of sexual activity. This is an important gap considering that parental psychopathology is related to poor parent-child interactions (Rueter & Conger, 1998), decreased emotional availability (Riordan, Appleby, & Faragher, 1999), and higher levels of expressed emotion (EE; Sellers et al., 2014), all of which may influence children’s sexual decision-making. 429 adolescents from the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms (LAMS) study who reported on sexual behaviors on the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey – High School version (YRBS-HS) were included in the current analyses, and Cox regression analyses were used to investigate parental psychopathology as a predictor of age of sexual initiation. Sex, race, and child psychopathology were included as covariates. Results suggest that parental psychopathology, especially maternal psychopathology, is negatively related to youth age of sexual initiation; furthermore, this effect is not simply explained by the established relationship between youth psychopathology and sexual initiation. Results have implications for interventions aimed at decreasing sexual risk-taking in vulnerable youth.
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center