Context: While many surveys have documented trends in adolescent sexuality and fertility in Latin America, relatively few data are available that describe factors associated with the onset of sexual activity in a Latin American context. Methods: Variables hypothesized to be associated with early sexual debut, such as family structure, parental education, academic performance, peer-group influences, use of drugs and alcohol, and attitudes toward sexuality and early parenthood, were examined through multivariate logistic regression techniques among a sample of 4,248 urban Chilean students aged 11-19. Results: Overall, 21% of the young women and 36% of the young men had ever had sex, with the median ages of first intercourse being 15 years and 14 years, respectively. In the bivariate analyses, the father's absence from the home was significantly associated with early sexual initiation among female students but not among males; however, regardless of gender, students with more liberal attitudes toward sex, those who thought most of their peers were sexually experienced, those who rarely attended religious services, those who had ever used alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, and those with lower grade-point averages were all more likely to have ever had sex. In the final reduced model, there were few differences by gender in the attitudinal, behavioral and social relations factors that were significantly related to sexual debut, although father's presence in the home and academic achievement were still significant in the final model for young women only. Conclusions: Enough young people initiate sexual activity in the early teenage years to warrant offering sex education sooner than is now the case. Courses might thus include specific information on contraception, as well as take into account the ways in which adolescent attitudes, risk behaviors and familial and academic environments shape choices related to sexual behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development