Age of sexual debut among US adolescents

Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, Melissa J. Krauss, Edward L. Spitznagel, Mario Schootman, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Jeffrey F. Peipert, Vetta Sanders-Thompson, Linda B. Cottler, Laura Jean Bierut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Background: This study examined gender and racial/ethnic differences in sexual debut. Study Design: We analyzed 1999-2007 data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), a cross-sectional, nationally representative survey of students in Grades 9-12 established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to compute the probability of survival (not having become sexually active) at each year (age 12 through 17), and separate estimates were produced for each level of gender and racial/ethnic group. Results: African-American males experienced sexual debut earlier than all other groups (all tests of significance at p<.001) and Asian males and females experienced sexual debut later than all groups (all tests of significance at p<.001). By their 17th birthday, the probability for sexual debut was less than 35% for Asians (females 28%, males 33%) and less than 60% for Caucasians (58% females, 53% males) and Hispanic females (59%). The probability for sexual debut by their 17th birthday was greatest for African Americans (74% females, 82% males) and Hispanic males (69%). Conclusions: These results demonstrate a need for sexual education programs and policy to be sensitive to the roles of race and ethnicity in sexual debut.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-162
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Adolescent risk behaviors
  • Sexual debut
  • Sexual differences
  • Sexual intercourse


Dive into the research topics of 'Age of sexual debut among US adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this