A new study has revealed that early and late sexual debut is linked to problems in sexual functioning.
For the study, researchers examined the adult consequences of early or late sexual debut by conducting a secondary analysis of data from the National Sexual Health Survey.
They also compared individuals whose first sexual intercourse occurred after marriage with those whose first experience occurred before marriage.
It was found that the timing of first sexual intercourse was linked to several sexual risk factors in men and women.
Men and women who had an early sexual debut reported more sexual partners, were more likely to have had sexual intercourse with at least one risky partner in the preceding year and preceding five years and were more likely to have had sexual intercourse under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the past year.
When compared to those who debuted at a normative age, early starters were more likely to have a history of an STI, whereas late starting women were less likely than those who had started at a normative age to have such a history.
Researchers found that early initiation and late initiation were both associated with various problems in sexual functioning, especially in men. Differences observed between individuals whose first sexual intercourse occurred before marriage and those whose first intercourse occurred after marriage were similar to those observed between early and late starters.
"Although our findings support an association between early initiation and long-term STI risk, they also suggest a more complicated picture of sexual functioning. Contrary to the suggestions of proponents of abstinence-only education, we found that both early and late initiators are more likely to experience problems with sexual functioning than those who initiate sexual activity at a normative age," the study's authors said.
"Such a finding in regard to late initiation lends credence to research showing that abstinence-only education may actually increase health risks and that strategies designed to promote relevant sexual health information, motivation and skills are likely to be more effective than abstinence-only messages in helping young people avoid short- as well as long-term health consequences," they added.
The study is published in the American Journal of Public Health.