Social Factors Associated with Readiness for Sexual Activity in Adolescents: A Population-Based Cohort Study

Heron, Jon; Low, Nicola; Lewis, Glyn; Macleod, John; Ness, Andy; Waylen, Andrea (2015). Social Factors Associated with Readiness for Sexual Activity in Adolescents: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(3), pp. 669-678. Springer 10.1007/s10508-013-0162-5

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Various factors are associated with sexual activity in adolescence and it is important to identify those that promote healthy and adaptive romantic and sexual development. The objectives of this study were to describe rates of early sexual intercourse (before 16 years) and sexual readiness in adolescence and to assess the extent to which these were social patterned. We prospectively studied nearly 5,000 15-year-olds from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a UK birth cohort. Between 2006 and 2008, female and male participants answered a computer assisted interview about romantic and sexual behaviors in the last year. Predictors of sexual intercourse and readiness for sexual intercourse were examined across a range of sociodemographic measures. Overall, 17.7 % (95 % CI 16.7 %, 18.9 %) of participants reported having had sexual intercourse in the last year, with more girls than boys reporting sexual experience (risk ratio 1.30, 95 % CI 1.15, 1.47). Of these, one-third of both male and female were classed as unready because they were unwilling, lacking in autonomy, felt regret or had not used contraception. There was strong evidence of social patterning for sexual activity with higher rates for young people from poorer homes, with lower social class, and with younger, less educated mothers. In contrast, among 860 young people who had had sexual intercourse, there was no clear evidence of associations between social factors and sexual readiness. The lack of social patterning in sexual readiness supports the provision of comprehensive education to develop life skills for adolescents across all social groups.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Low, Nicola


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services








Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

25 Feb 2014 09:10

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:28

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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