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J Biosoc Sci. 1999 Jan;31(1):29-41.

Nature, nurture and first sexual intercourse in the USA: fitting behavioural genetic models to NLSY kinship data.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Oklahoma, Norman 73019, USA.


Fisher (1930) presented both theoretical and empirical results concerning genetic influences on fertility. Since then, only sparse research has been done on the genetics of fertility, although more sophisticated methodogy and data now exist than were available to Fisher. This paper presents a behavioural genetic analysis of age at first intercourse, accounting for genetic, shared environmental, and selected non-shared environmental influences. The data came from the nationally representative National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). A newly developed kinship linking procedure was used that identifies links for cousins, half-siblings, full-siblings and twins in the NLSY. The results suggest a genetic influence in the overall dataset, and also among whites and in male-male and opposite-sex pairs. Genetic influences were extremely small or non-existent for blacks and for female-female pairs. Shared environmental influences were small for most subsets of the data, but moderate for female-female pairs. Two specific non-shared environmental influences--self-esteem and locus of control--were ruled out as accounting for any meaningful variance, although other general sources of non-shared environmental influence appear potentially important. Analysis of selected samples from upper and lower tails suggested that genetic influences are important in accounting for both early and late non-virginity. These findings are consistent with work reported by Miller et al. (1999), who used molecular genetic methods. Generally, these findings support the existence of genetic influences and implicate non-shared environmental influences as being important determinants of the timing of loss of virginity among US adolescents and young adults.

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