A study by an Iowa State researcher has found kids in low-income families are having sex at a much earlier age than thought. Brenda Lohman says she was shocked to see the results from the survey of low-income families in Boston, San Antonio and Chicago.
Lohman says the average age for kids to start having sex was 12, so kids were starting to have sex at age 10 or under with some eight and nine year olds having sex. Lohman, an associate professor of human development and family studies, says kids involved in delinquent acts were most likely to have sex at a young age.
She says kids who were also doing drugs and alcohol and staying out beyond curfew, were also more likely to have sex a younger age. Another key involved the mother of the kids.
Lohman says one of the more important factors that protected kids from getting involved in early sex was the education of their mother. "So moms who had an high school education, an education beyond high school, or increased their education over time, those kid were less likely to engage in sexual activity," Lohman says. Lohman says mothers who are more educated appear to have several factors that work in the favor of kids.
Lohman says mothers with a higher education are more engaged in talking to kids about sexuality, they are able to monitor kids better, or have a better strategy for dealing with their kids. They also can have better paying jobs that allow the kids to be monitored better and have a more stable home life.
The study found boys reported their first sexual intercourse at younger ages (12.48), than girls (13.16). Boys also had nearly 10% higher frequency of intercourse than girls.
African Americans had 12% more early sexual intercourse than whites, although racial differences did not change the age of their first intercourse. Lohman says the study shows the need to talk to kids at an earlier age about sex. Lohman says most kids don’t get abstinence education until junior high and she says most kids don’t learn about sex from their parents, they learn about it from their friends and TV.
So she says it’s important to have prevention programs that start at younger ages in school that talk about the risk factors and the protective factors and if you are going to have sex, "making wise decisions if you do so." Lohman, who is a new mother, says the study is eye opening.
"You don’t want to believe that children are having sex at that young age because you want them to be young children yet. But there are definitely kids who know what sex is and are participating in these behaviors. And so we just need to be aware of that going on and be proactive in helping prevent further complications for those kids who start so early," Lohman says.
Lohman is currently working on research to determine the relationship between obesity and teen sexuality. She hopes to publish results from that study within the year.