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Soc Sci Res. 2012 Jul;41(4):861-75. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Family environments and the relationship context of first adolescent sex: Correlates of first sex in a casual versus steady relationship.

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1
Child Trends 4301 Connecticut Ave., NW Suite 350, Washington, DC 20008, United States.

Abstract

Limited research has examined how family environments are associated with the relationship context of first sex, an important indicator of reproductive health risk. We use data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to assess the association between the family environment - parent-parent relationships, parent-adolescent relationships, and family structure - and relationship context of first heterosexual sexual intercourse, distinguishing between the transition to first sex in serious and casual relationships. Twenty-five percent of females and 43% of males who had sex by age 18 did so in a casual relationship. All dimensions of the family environment were linked to the relationship context of first sex. Notably, higher parental monitoring was associated with a reduced risk of transitioning to first sex in a casual relationship versus no sex, and greater family routines were associated with a reduced risk of transitioning to sex in a steady relationship versus having no sex, for males and females. A strong maternal-adolescent relationship was associated with a reduced risk of first sex in a casual relationship but only for males. Additionally, in two-parent families, a strong father-adolescent relationship was associated with reduced risk of transitioning to casual sex, but only for females. Pregnancy and STI prevention programs should work with parents to foster positive parent-adolescent relationships, to become aware of their adolescents' activities and to recognize that parents are important models for adolescent relationship behaviors.

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