Correlates of premarital relationships among unmarried youth in Pune District, Maharashtra, India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Context: Although premarital partnerships - whether or not they involve sex - are widely discouraged in India, some youth do form such partnerships. It is important to know more about the nature of and the factors associated with these relationships. Methods: Data are drawn from a community-based study of 15-24-year-olds in urban slum and rural settings in Pune District, Maharashtra. Multivariate analyses were conducted to identify associations between youths' individual, peer and family factors and their experience of romantic relationships and physical intimacy, including intercourse. Results: Among young men, 17-24% had had a romantic relationship, 20-26% had engaged in some form of physical intimacy and 16-18% had had sex; the proportions among young women were 5-8%,4-6% and 1-2%, respectively. Exposure to alcohol, drugs or pornographic films and having more frequent interaction with peers were positively associated with romantic and sexual relationships for both young women and young men. Educational attainment was negatively associated with both types of relationships for young women, but only with sexual relationships for young men. Closeness to parents was negatively associated with relationships only for young women. Young women whose father beat their mother were more likely than other young women to form romantic partnerships, and those beaten by their family had an elevated risk of entering romantic and sexual partnerships. Youth who reported strict parental supervision were no less likely than others to enter relationships. Conclusions: Program interventions should ensure that youth are fully informed and equipped to make safe choices and negotiate wanted outcomes, while positively influencing their peer networks; encourage closer interaction between parents and children; and be tailored to the different circumstances and experiences of young women and men.