What predicts the early sexual debut among unmarried adolescents (10–19 years)? Evidence from UDAYA survey, 2015–16

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Introduction: The societal norm in India is such that adolescents are expected to respect and follow traditional values and view early sexual debut as undesirable and deviant from the social mores. However, a dramatic shift in attitudes towards sex before marriage has been observed in India. We in this study, aim to study the factors associated with early sexual debut among unmarried adolescents. Materials and methods: The study used data from the Understanding the lives of adolescents and young adults (UDAYA) survey conducted in 2016 with 15,388 adolescents aged 10-19 years from two Indian states. Bivariate and logistic regression analyses were performed to determine the associated factors. Results: Adolescent boys (9%) were more prone to early sexual debut compared to girls (4%). Both boys (17.2%) and girls (6%) who were school dropouts had significantly higher chances of early sexual debut. Boys who had rare [OR: 2.28; CI: 1.12-4.64] or frequent media exposure [OR: 2.70; CI: 1.36-5.32] were significantly more likely to report early sexual debut than those who had no media exposure. Further, the likelihood of early sexual debut was significantly higher among boys [OR: 3.01; CI: 2.34-3.87] and girls [OR: 1.87; CI: 1.12-3.12] who had exposure to pornography compared to their counterparts. The odds of early sexual debut were higher among boys [OR: 1.89; CI: 1.19-3.01] and girls [OR: 1.77; CI: 1.30-2.41] who had moderately-severe/severe depressive symptoms compared to their counterparts. Conclusions: The results highlight that Indian unmarried adolescents demand the appropriate knowledge to promote safer sexual behavior and lead a responsible and healthy lifestyle. The preventive efforts must be multifaceted with involvement at the individual and parental levels. Especially, interventions appear advantageous to be parents-focused emphasizing family life education that can prevent risky sexual behaviors among adolescent boys and girls. And the public programs should focus on sexual health promotion considering the physical and psychosocial changes during early ages of sex life.






Understanding the Lives of Adolescents and Young Adults (UDAYA)