Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Using data from the 2004 National Survey of Adolescents conducted in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda, this Population Council working paper investigates the timing of two key transitions in adolescence—school exit and premarital sex—among those who remain enrolled in school at the beginning of adolescence (age 12). Girls appear more vulnerable to dropout once they become sexually mature and once they engage in premarital sex. While girls were found to be less likely than boys, at any given age and controlling for other covariates, to have had premarital sex (except in Ghana), school enrollment and the timing of school entry were not consistent factors explaining gender differences. Results indicate that the negative consequences for schooling associated with sexual maturation and premarital sex appear to be greater for adolescents in these four countries, especially for girls, than the consequences of leaving school early for the likelihood of premarital sex. Future studies that collect more-detailed information on the educational environment should help clarify the associations between school experiences and sexual behavior among young people in sub-Saharan Africa.