While early exposure to sex on TV has been tied to increasing risky behaviour in teens, a new study suggests that TV is not the only channel to early sex.
The research team from University of Wisconsin has revealed that television combined with low self-esteem, poor relationships with parents, and low academic achievement contribute to young people having sex before the age of 15.
Myeshia Price and Dr. Janet Hyde from the University of Wisconsin in the USA said that a parent's positive influence might go a long way to reduce risky sexual behaviour during adolescence.
Adolescents who engage in sexual acts before the age of 15 are likely to do so without adequate protection, putting them at higher risk of sexually transmitted infections and, for girls, unwanted pregnancies.
To identify ways to reduce the number of adolescents who have sex before the age of 15, Price and Hyde examined a combination of individual, family, and sociocultural factors thought to predict early sexual activity in a total A adolescents with 146 girls and 127 boys.
They were asked about their sexual behavior, puberty, academic achievement, self-esteem, depression, sports participation, symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), family structure and quality of relationships with parents, and exposure to sexuality through the media
Of the 273, 15 percent had experienced early sex - intercourse and/or oral sex.
The study found that girls who had been sexually active before the age of 15 spent more time watching television, had lower self-esteem, had poor relationships with their parents, had lived with either a single mother or step-parent, showed signs of ADHD, and underachieved at school.
Among boys those engaged in early sexual activity were further into their puberty, spent more time watching television, had lower self-esteem, showed signs of ADHD and ODD, and had poor relationships with their parents.
These findings suggest that intervention programs aimed at reducing the number of adolescents who have sex at a younger age are more likely to be effective if they target a combination of factors.
The authors suggest that "positive influence from parents, coupled with comprehensive education programs, have the potential to have an unsurpassed effect on early adolescent sexual activity."