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ERIC Number: EJ1118193
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Nov
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
The Risks and Rewards of Sexual Debut
Golden, Rachel Lynn; Furman, Wyndol; Collibee, Charlene
Developmental Psychology, v52 n11 p1913-1925 Nov 2016
The sex-positive framework of sexual development hypothesizes that healthy sexual experiences can be developmentally appropriate and rewarding for adolescents despite the risks involved. Research has not examined whether risky behaviors and rewarding cognitions actually change with sexual debut at a normative or late age. This study measured the longitudinal impact of sexual debut using 7 waves of data from 88 male and 86 female adolescents from a western U.S. city who were in the 10th grade at the study's onset. We used piecewise growth curve analyses to compare behaviors and cognitions before and after first sexual intercourse for those whose debut was at a normative or late age. These analyses revealed that sexual debut was related to rewards, including increases in romantic appeal and sexual satisfaction. In addition, internalizing symptoms declined over time after sexual debut, and substance use grew at a slower rate after sexual debut. We also examined whether differences existed among those whose debut was at an early, normative, or late age. Linear growth curve analyses revealed early sexual debut was related to risks, such as greater substance use, more internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and lower global self-worth. Rewards associated with an early debut included greater romantic appeal, dating satisfaction (males only), and sexual satisfaction (males only). Although there are some inherent risks with sexual activity, the results suggest that sexual debut at a normative or late age is also associated with a decrease in some risks and an increase in rewards.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Grade 10; Secondary Education; High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institute of Mental Health (DHHS/NIH); Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Beck Depression Inventory; Child Behavior Checklist; State Trait Anxiety Inventory; Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
Grant or Contract Numbers: 050106; 049080