An interesting study has been done at the University of Texas at Austin about the timing of an adolescent’s first sexual encounter affects outcomes of their relationships as adults. Psychological scientist Paige Harden set out to determine whether timing of sexual initiation in adolescence affected things like whether people get married or live with their partners, how many romantic partners they’ve had, and whether they’re satisfied with their relationship later on in life.
The study consisted of data comparing 1659 same-sex sibling pairs from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. This study followed the teens from the time they were 16 until they were approximately 29 years of age. The siblings were classified in three ways. Those who had sexual intercourse before the age of 15 were considered early. Teens whose first sexual encounter occurred between 16-19 were classified as on-time. Those after the age of 19 were classified as late. The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.
Interestingly, those who were classified as late attained higher educational status and had a higher household income. They also had fewer romantic partners in adulthood and for those who were or living with a partner, they had a higher level of satisfaction with their relationship than their counterparts. Many factors were eliminated that could not explain the difference such as adult educational attainment, income, or religiousness, or by adolescent differences in dating involvement, body mass index, or attractiveness. Though the study focused on early initiation of sexual behavior, they caution that this doesn’t point as much to the risks as much as it points to the protective nature of waiting until later in life to engage in sexual behavior.
More study needs to be done to determine the specifics about why this happens. It could be that these individuals who wait gain a higher maturity level and know better how to handle the relationships they’re in. It may also be a result of delayed gratification and the positive consequences of being able to wait.