Trends and gender differences in age at sex debut among adolescents and young adults in urban Cape Area, South Africa
Background: Adolescents and young adults in South Africa are at increased risk of experiencing negative outcomes from early sex initiation due to the context they develop in. This study aimed at investigating trends and gender differences in early age at sexual debut.
Methods: Data from the Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS) of young adults’ conducted between 2002 and 2009 in urban Cape Town were used. Correlates of early sex using ecological risk factors were analysed.
Results: Overall mean age at sexual debut at follow-up was 17.5 years (standard deviation (SD) =2.5), with males at 16.8 years (SD=2.5) and 18.1 years (SD=2.4) for females. Males consistently reported an earlier age at sex debut across the five waves of the survey. Significant risk factors for early sex appeared at all levels of the ecology to include individual, household, and community factors.
Conclusions: Integrated interventions for delaying early sex debut should consider factors within the ecology of the young adults’ development context.
Keywords: Sex debut, adolescents and young adults, contextual risk factors, cumulative risk.
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