A new study has challenged the widely believed view that high school students who lose their virginity at an early age tend to take to a life of crime. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia, US, found that an early loss of virginity is not linked to criminal behaviour.
As a part of the Rethinking Timing of First Sex and Delinquency study, researchers led by Kathryn Paige Harden questioned 534 pairs of twins in US high schools. They found that kids who got intimate earlier were no more likely to shoplift, graffiti objects or engage in drug-related behaviour than their counterparts.
"After controlling for these genetic and environmental confounds using a quasi-experimental design, earlier age at first sex predicted lower levels of delinquency in early childhood," News.com.au quoted the report, as saying. "Twins differ considerably in their age at first intercourse, indicating that non-shared environmental factors are the strongest influence on sexual timing.
"Nevertheless, the twins who experienced first sex earlier than their co-twins did not demonstrate higher levels of delinquency, suggesting that early sexual timing does not, in and of itself, elevate delinquent behaviour." The average age that participants had sex for the first time was 16.44 years.
However, the report did note that there were potential problems with having sex at a younger age such as greater psychological distress, undergoing an abortion, lower education etc. "Early age at first sex has been linked to earlier leaving of the parental home, lower educational attainment, experiencing a pregnancy termination... and receiving medical treatment to facilitate pregnancy; greater psychological distress among college women; and experimentation with cocaine and other substances," the report stated.
"Also, (research has) found that physical involvement with a boyfriend among seventh- and eighth-grade girls predicted disordered eating."
The study is published online in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.