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Psychol Sci. 2012;23(11):1324-36. doi: 10.1177/0956797612442550. Epub 2012 Sep 25.

True love waits? A sibling-comparison study of age at first sexual intercourse and romantic relationships in young adulthood.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, 78712, USA.


This study tested whether the timing of first sexual intercourse in adolescence predicts romantic outcomes in adulthood, including union formation, number of romantic partners, and relationship dissatisfaction. Participants were 1,659 same-sex sibling pairs from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, who were followed from adolescence (mean age = 16 years) to young adulthood (mean age = 29 years). The timing of participants' first sexual intercourse was classified as early (at age 14 or earlier), on time (between the ages of 15 and 19), or late (at age 19 or older). Compared with early and on-time age at first sex, late age at first sex was associated with decreased odds of marriage or nonmarital cohabitation and fewer romantic partners in adulthood. Among individuals who had married or cohabited with a partner, late timing of first sex was associated with significantly reduced levels of relationship dissatisfaction, even after controlling for genetic and environmental differences between families (using a sibling-comparison model), demographic outcomes in adulthood, and involvement in dating during adolescence. These results underscore the contribution of a life-span approach to our understanding of romantic relationships.

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