Predictors of sexual debut among young adolescents in Nairobi's informal settlements

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Context: There is a need to better understand the various social, psychosocial and behavioral factors associated with sexual activity among young adolescents in various settings in Sub-Saharan Africa. Methods: Data were drawn from Wave 1 (2007-2008) and Wave 2 (2009) of the Transition to Adulthood study, which collected information about key markers of the transition to adulthood and social, demographic and psychosocial characteristics of male and female youth living in two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine variables associated with experience of sexual debut by Wave 2 among youth who were aged 12-16 and sexually inexperienced at Wave 1. Results: Of the 1,754 youth in the sample, 92 experienced sexual debut between survey waves. For both males and females, sexual debut was positively associated with having permanently dropped out of school (odds ratios, 6.9 and 21.8, respectively), having never attended school (8.6 and 39.4) and having experienced severe family dysfunction (2.8 and 5.7). Lack of parental supervision was a predictor of sexual debut among males only (10.1), whereas low aspiration was a predictor among females only (10.4). Surprisingly, young women, as well as men, who did not have high self-esteem were less likely than those who did to initiate first sex between waves (0.4 and 0.3). Conclusions: Study findings underscore the importance of school attendance, family dysfunction, parental supervision and self-esteem in driving sexual behavior in this age-group. Further studies are warranted to elucidate how these factors can be addressed in prevention programs for young adolescents.






Strengthening Evidence for Programming on Unintended Pregnancy (STEP UP)