Sexual behavior among adolescents is of concern to parents and society, especially when it is risky. Early adolescent sexual activity remains a recurring problem with negative psychosocial and health outcomes. The age at sexual debut varies from place to place and is associated with different factors.
In 2009 the average age of sexual debut was 18.4 years, and by 2016 the global average was at 16 years. In Kenya 2021, the average age at sexual debut is at 16.8 years. World Health Organization defines early sexual debut at 15years or earlier.
Why early sexual debut is a problem
Early sexual debut is associated with negative social and health outcomes not limited to:
- risk of infection – HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,
- unwanted pregnancies,
- teenage pregnancies,
- unsafe abortions and
- negative effect on academics which may affect the teenage future.
Late effects include:
- Depression and anxiety disorders,
- poor sexual health,
- prone to sexual abuse and
- likely to have multiple sexual partners
Contributing factors to early sexual debut
- Alcohol and Substance abuse
Teenagers who grew up in families that alcohol and drugs are easily accessible are more likely to start drinking alcohol earlier in life. Studies show 6/10 teenagers who drink alcohol in a night club had engaged in sex in the recent past and 3/10 of those had unprotected sex.
- Peer pressure
- Mass media influence and pornography
- Low maternal education, mother’s age at first sex and permissive norms about negative social outcomes
- Unstable family environment
- Rural residence and family economic disadvantage
- Poor sexual education knowledge
Protective factors to early sexual debut
- Parental supervision, connectedness and bonding
Parents who knew their teenagers companions, where – about, activities and had a specific way of monitoring their behaviors had a positive influence on delaying their children sexual activities. Also, the longer a father is absent (in years) from the household, the greater the odds of early sexual debut for girls; however, this effect was not statistically significant for boys.
- Academic expectations and achievements
Teenagers who had high academic expectations or had specific project or goal that they are working on are less likely to engage themselves with risky sexual behaviors.
- Religious inclination
Teenagers who grew up with strong religious inclination are more likely to delay sexual debut.
Early sexual debut has health and social consequences. Active parenting and a goal oriented life to our teenagers at an early age will delay sexual debut and bring focus to our children’s lives.