New research suggests that there is a strong connection between gambling with an earlier age of onset of sexual activities.
Late adolescence is a period when many youth become involved in high-risk behaviours with adverse consequences.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied the degree to which two such behaviours - adolescent sexual behaviours and gambling - affected African American youth in nine primary schools in Baltimore, Maryland.
"The study shows that gambling youth are not only at risk of gambling problems but also at risk for sex-related behaviours such as adolescent pregnancy/impregnation," said Silvia Martins, associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.
The findings showed that of the 427 African-American youth studied almost half the sample - 49 percent - had gambled at least once before age 18, and more gamblers than non-gamblers had initiated sexual intercourse by age 18.
Approximately one third (35 percent) had intercourse by age 13 and 89 percent had engaged in sexual intercourse by age 18.
"We strongly advocates for existing prevention programmes that target adolescent problem behaviours to also incorporate a gambling prevention/intervention component," suggested Martins.
Specific interventions should focus upon improving the decision-making skills of adolescents for engaging in gambling activities and techniques to negotiate safer sex attitudes with potential sexual partners - such as using condoms.
The study is available online in the journal Addictive Behaviors.