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Early Sexual Debut and Associated Risk Behaviors Among Sexual Minority Youth

  • Richard Lowry
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Richard Lowry, MD, MS, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, N.E. (Mailstop E-75), Atlanta GA 30329
    Affiliations
    Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Richard Dunville
    Affiliations
    Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Leah Robin
    Affiliations
    Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Laura Kann
    Affiliations
    Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
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Published:November 21, 2016DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2016.10.008

      Introduction

      Early sexual debut, sexual risk taking, substance use, violent victimization, and suicidal behaviors are more prevalent among sexual minority than sexual nonminority youth. Although associations between early sexual debut and these risk behaviors exist, little is known about such associations among sexual minority youth. This study examined these associations among sexual minority U.S. high school students and their sexual nonminority peers.

      Methods

      In 2015, the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey included questions assessing sexual orientation for the first time. In 2016, data from this nationally representative sample of 15,624 U.S. high school students were analyzed to determine if associations between early sexual debut and other health risk behaviors varied by sexual orientation, by calculating adjusted (for sex, race/ethnicity, and age) prevalence ratios (APRs).

      Results

      Associations between early sexual debut and other health risk behaviors did not vary significantly by sexual orientation. Early sexual debut (first sexual intercourse before age 13 years) was associated with sexual risk taking, substance use, violent victimization, and suicidal thoughts/attempts among students identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) and among students identifying as heterosexual, for example, being currently sexually active (LGB students: APR=1.82, 95% CI=1.35, 2.45; heterosexual students: APR=2.50, 95% CI=2.22, 2.81) and not using a condom at last sexual intercourse (LGB students: APR=1.50, 95% CI=1.18, 1.91; heterosexual students: APR=1.29, 95% CI=1.09, 1.52).

      Conclusions

      School-based sexual health programs might appropriately utilize strategies that are inclusive of sexual minority students, encourage delay of sexual intercourse, and coordinate with violence and substance use prevention programs.
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