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Am J Public Health. 2008 Jan;98(1):162-8. Epub 2007 Nov 29.

Social and emotional consequences of refraining from sexual activity among sexually experienced and inexperienced youths in California.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, USA.



We examined the social and emotional consequences among adolescents of refraining from sexual activity (oral or vaginal sex) and whether these consequences differed over time and by gender and sexual experience.


Adolescents (N=612; 58% female) recruited from 2 schools were assessed at 4 time points separated by 6-month intervals, beginning in fall of ninth grade.


The percentage of adolescents who reported only positive consequences (e.g., they felt responsible, friends were proud) dramatically decreased over time, whereas the percentage that reported negative consequences (e.g., they felt left out, partners became angry) steadily increased. Adolescent girls and sexually experienced adolescents were more likely to report both positive and negative consequences than were adolescent boys and sexually inexperienced adolescents. Adolescents who began the study with sexual experience were more likely to report positive consequences of refraining from sexual activity by the end of the study than those who initiated sexual activity later.


Sexual education programs should address how adolescents can cope with or prevent negative consequences of refraining from sexual activity, so that decisions to abstain are rewarding and decisions to engage in sexual activity are motivated by maturity and readiness.

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