Sign Up for MedicineNet Newsletters! Boys and girls who are unruly and aggressive from a young age were found to be more likely to start having sex before age 16, researchers reported in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics. The Australian study also found that boys -- but not girls -- who are socially anxious or withdrawn also tended to begin sex at a younger age.
Such behavior problems in boys as young as 5 and in girls as young as 10 can be used to accurately predict early initiation of sex, the researchers said. These results show that, for some kids, parents may need to begin discussing sex at an earlier age to help their children make the right decisions, said Dr. Cora Breuner, a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on adolescence.
But you can't talk about this stuff early enough," said Breuner, who was not involved with the study. The study authors focused on the kids' self-reported sexual decisions. The investigators found that by age 17, about 45 percent of the boys and 51 percent of the girls already had experienced sexual intercourse. Further, one in five boys and one in four girls said they'd had sex for the first time before 16, most at 15 years old, the study found.
Certain behavior patterns at younger ages -- particularly what the researchers called "externalizing" or "internalizing" behaviors -- appeared to indicate which kids were likely to have sex earlier than Boys who were acting out by ages 5 and 8 proved twice as likely to have sex at an early age. Girls who were disruptive at ages 10 and 14 were more than twice as likely, the study found.
But the findings showed that boys showing signs of internalizing behavior at age 10 were two and a half times more likely to have sex before She speculated that these boys might have sex as a way to fit in with the crowd. These findings could be used to indicate which kids may be at greater risk for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases because they began sex early, said Dr.
Vaughn Rickert, director of adolescent medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, said that other factors could also play into a youngster's decisions regarding sex.
These include whether they are in a single-parent family, whether there is a lot of domestic strife in their family, and whether their family is economically disadvantaged. Reports of behavior problems "do not necessarily account for what I would consider more powerful predictors of early sexual activity," Rickert said. Rickert added that the study's definition of early sexual intercourse, at 15 or 16 years old, may be too strict and run counter to normal childhood sexual development.