ERIC Number: EJ759374
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Reference Count: N/A
Does Early Adolescent Sex Cause Depressive Symptoms?
Sabia, Joseph J.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, v25 n4 p803-825 Aut 2006
A recent study by the Heritage Foundation (Rector, Johnson, & Noyes, 2003) found evidence of a positive relationship between early sexual intercourse and depressive symptoms. This finding has been used to bolster support for funding abstinence only sex education. However, promoting abstinence will only yield mental health benefits if there is a causal link between sexual intercourse and depression. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), I carefully examine the relationship between early teen sex and several measures of depression. Controlling for a wide set of individual level and family level observable characteristics, cross section estimates consistently show a significant positive relationship between early sexual activity for females and three measures of adverse mental health: self reported depression, a belief that one's life is not worth living, and serious thoughts of suicide. However, difference-indifference estimates reflect no evidence of a significant relationship between early teen sex and depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that the positive association observed by Rector et al. (2003) can be explained by unmeasured heterogeneity. Thus, promoting abstinence among adolescents is unlikely to alleviate depressive symptoms
Descriptors: Adolescents, Sexuality, Sex Education, Mental Health, Depression (Psychology), Symptoms (Individual Disorders), Longitudinal Studies
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health