IntroductionEarly sexual debut is commonly defined as having had firstsexual intercourse at or before age 14 years and is associated with risks tosexual and reproductive health. It is associated with risky sexual behaviors,multiple sexually transmitted infections, cancer of the cervix and earlymarriages.
Both girls and boys with a sexual debut before14 years of age havemore sexual partners and as much as two times more experience of anal sex atthe age of 18 than girls and boys with a later sex debut. An early debut mightexplain the experience of having more sexual partners, simply because they havespent more time engaging in sexual activity. It could, however, also indicate atrend of increased risk-taking sexual behavior, as well as other riskybehavior, such as substance use and antisocial behavior.In Sub-Saharan Africa, the onset of sexual activitytypically occurs by age 20 with the median age at first intercourse rangingfrom 16-19 years.According to the KDHS 2014, Fifteen percent of women age20-49 had their first sexual intercourse by age 15, 50 percent by age 18, and71 percent by age 20. Older women are slightly more likely to have had theirfirst sexual encounter at an earlier age. Men usually have an earlier sexual debut than women, apattern that holds true for most age groups. For example, 22 percent of men age20-49 had first sexual intercourse by age 15, 56 percent by age 18, and 76percent by age 20.
The median age at first sexual intercourse among men age20-49 (17.4 years) is also slightly lower than that among women (18.0 years)KDHS 2014Kenya has a large adolescent population aged between 10 – 19years of age with 23.4% being male while 22% are female.
Though the first debut may be coerced, there is increasingevidence of consensual sex at an early age due to various factors andespecially the “perception of self” as will be discussed in much more detail inthis write upDefinitions;Self-perception isdefined as “The idea you have about the kind of person you are”. The perceptionof self-restraining capacity is significantly correlated with age. The older aperson is, the stronger their perceived self-restraining capability is. Nevertheless, given the early age at sex-debut, femaleadolescents are under threat from male sexual advances, often taking the formof abduction and rape.This article aims to explore the role of self-esteem, datingidentity exploration, Demographic variables, motivation and sensation seeking,permissive attitude towards sex, advances in physical maturity that mayinfluence early sexual debut among adolescents. 1.
SELF ESTEEM Ingeneral, self-esteem is higher during childhood, decreases during adolescenceand then gradually increases through adulthood. During adolescence, self-esteemcan be affected by the physical and hormone changes. Self-esteem is alsoinfluenced by the social context and higher among adolescents with qualityparental relationships and social support. Good relationships with peers andperceived popularity were positively correlated with self-esteem among femalewhile school performance was positively correlated with self-esteem among maleadolescents.
Self-esteemmay be affected by a number of factors as discussed below which in turninfluence early sexual debut among adolescentsa. Parental support and Parental psychosocialcontrolParenting has important implications for adolescents’ sexualand romantic relationships. A good number of studies have includedfamily-related measures such as family structure, parental education, andfamily socioeconomic status .All these studies seem to suggest that familyprocess variables, especially parenting, may be more relevant in predictingadolescent sexual outcomes.
Parental support includes any ongoing behaviorcarried out by a parental figure which contributes to the well-being and nurturingof the adolescent. Parental support has a direct correlation to lower levelsof adolescent problem behaviors, including risky sexual behavior. Supportiveparenting deters adolescents from having sex at earlier ages and sexuallyinexperienced 10th grade youth report more supportive relationships with theirparents than their sexually experienced counterparts. A recent study found thatmore warmth in the family is associated with adolescents having lower numbersof sexual partners. Supportive parents who have warm and open relationshipswith their adolescents can communicate their values about relationships and sexuality,which in turn results in the adolescent being less likely to take sexual risks.
Parental support also has been linked with social initiative and higher levelsof adolescent self-esteem Parental psychological control refers to manipulativeor intimidating behaviors that attempt to control the adolescent’s thoughts orbeliefs. Parental psychological control can hinder social and psychologicalmaturation by discouraging independent thinking or self-discovery, and/or bymanipulating adolescent children in order to fulfill parental goals.Psychologically controlling parents do not give adolescentsthe autonomy they strive for and can impede adolescent identity exploration. Parentalpsychological control has autonomy-stifling aspects that push adolescents awayfrom close relationships with parents, making them potentially more vulnerableto risky behavior within their romantic relationships. Furthermore, parentalpsychological control has been found to be associated with sexual risk taking andalso that parental psychological control was associated positively withengaging in sexual intercourse in a sample of African American youth fromsingle parent families.In sum, parental support and psychological control caninfluence adolescents’ decision making, including the choices adolescents makeabout sexual behavior. Further, adolescents’ views of self can be influenced bythe relationships they have with their parents and adolescents’ self-development influencesdecision making including choices adolescents make about sexual behavior.Many studies emphasize that adolescents whose sexual debutoccurred by the age of 15 have reported worse relationships with their mothersthan other adolescentsb.
Dating identity explorationDating identity exploration is consistent with self-esteemwhich implies that the more an adolescent engages in figuring out how she or heviews the dating identity the more likely that adolescent will think seriouslyabout the meaning of engaging in sexual activity with a partner. Thus, datingidentity exploration may promote waiting until a relationship is more seriousand getting to know a partner longer before engaging in sexual activity withthat partner. Alternately, adolescents who delay engagement in sexual activitywith a partner may have greater opportunities and/or flexibility to exploretheir dating identities. (Mruk C.J. 2013)c. Esteem boosters for adolescents i. Scholastic Competence: This refers to thechild’s perceived cognitive competence, as applied to schoolwork.
Thus, itemsmake reference to doing well at school, being able to figure out the answers,finishing one’s schoolwork quickly, and feeling that one is intelligent.ii. Social Competence: This is social acceptanceemanating from social support. It may imply; knowing how to make friends,having the skills to get others to like oneself, knowing what to do to haveothers accept you, understanding what it takes to become popular, etc. iii. Athletic Competence: Athletic competence itemsprimarily refer to one’s ability to do well at sports, including outdoor gamesand demonstrating one’s athletic prowess.
iv. Physical Appearance. These items tap the extentto which one feels one is good looking, happy with one’s looks, body, face,hair, etc. v.
Job Competence. This refers to the extent towhich an adolescent feels that (s)he has job skills, is ready to do well at tasksgiven, and feels that (s)he is doing well at the jobs that (s)he has. vi. Romantic Appeal.
This is a perception where theadolescents are romantically attractive to those in whom they are interested, theyare dating the people they would like to be dating, and they feel that they arefun and interesting on a date. vii. Behavioral Conduct. This subscale taps thedegree to which one likes the way one behaves, does the right thing, acts theway one is supposed to act, and avoids getting into trouble. viii. Close Friendship. This refers to one’s abilityto make close friends, those with whom one can share personal thoughts andsecrets.
ix. Global Self-Worth This is a general feeling or asense of adequacy in specific arenas of one’s life. Thus, there are noreferences to specific competencies or skills, or specific characteristics. 2. DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLESAge and Gender; theglobal mean for sex debut is 15.4 years (15.
3 for girls and 15.5 for boys).Usually 7.5% have had their sexual debut before the age of 14 (7.8% for girlsand 7.2% boys).
The slightly lower debut age among girls could be explained bythe fact that girls tend to have an earlier onset of puberty than boys and thiscorrelates positively with an early sexual debut.Family structure: Thishas a huge impact on sexual debut whether the family structure is a singleparent, biological parents or adoptive parents Living with both biological parents, or at least alternatingbetween them, seemed to be a protective factor for having an early sexual debutfor both girls and boys. Adolescents from two-parent families are less likelyto have sex and had fewer sexual partners. Findings from a Greek study showedthat adolescents with an unstable home environment, due to divorce, recent death,or not living with their mother, were more likely to be sexually active. Livingwith both parents seemed to be a protective factor, except for when the motherwas very young, poorly educated, or if either of the parents had alcohol usedisorder.
There is a link between family stress or impaired families and bothearly sexual debut and risky sexual behavior. Parents who did not care or wereoverprotective seem to be a risk factor for early sexual debut, especially forboys. With regard to parental education there was no signi?cant associationwith early sexual debut.
Social class andEthnicity / RaceSocial class influences early sexual debut, and for girlsethnicity has been found to influence early debut. Social class may indicate variations in access to healthprotective resources which may include unequal access to sexual healthprotective resources, which may consequently lead to differences in lifechances. Social class seems to be among the greatest risk takers of early debutfor boys. Social class variations for girls particularly increased risk forearly debut among working class girls.
Gendered power relationships may have different implicationsin different social relationships where young men tend to take their dominantrole for granted. Religion;Religiosity is shown to have a protective association for sexual activity andthe number of partners 3. MOTIVATION, SENSATION SEEKING, DRUG USE ANDABUSEDrug use: Girlsand boys who smoke are more likely to have an early sexual debut. Boys whodrank more than four times a month have a higher percentage of early sexualdebut group. Adolescents with an early sexual debut were more likely to havetried different kinds of drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy oramphetamine. Having used hashish/marijuana doubled the odds for early sexualdebut among girls and increases the odds fourfold for boys.
Having usedanabolic steroids increased the risk of having had an early sexual debut among boys.Together with the increased use of drugs, there is a connectionbetween early sexual debut and risky health behavior. Earlier Swedish studiesshowed that when a teenager had their sexual debut at 14 years old or younger therewas already a risk of developing a hazardous lifestyle involving more use oftobacco, alcohol, and drugs and being more involved in physical violence.Others studies have shown a correlation between early sexual debut and a higherrisk of early development of substance use disorder. Antisocial behavior and earlysexual debut were linked to each other and could be explained by a common traitto test the limits of their behaviors. 4. PERMISSIVE ATTITUDES TOWARDS SEXAccess to internet, technology and sex information may havea direct correlation with early sexual debut.
An early sexual debut is directlylinked to exposure to pornography and sexual content in movies.Sexting: Youthwho sexted reported higher perceptions of approval for sexual behavior fromparents, peers, and the media, higher intentions to engage in sexual behavior,lower emotional awareness, and lower emotional self-esteem. Sexual text messagingbehavior of any kind, with or without pictures, was associated with greaterlikelihood of engaging in a variety of sexual behaviors, including touchinggenitals, having a “friend with benefits,” oral sex, or vaginal sex. Teenagerswho had sexted were between 4 and 7 times more likely to have engaged in thesesexual behaviors. For example, teenagers who had sexted were 5 times as likelyto have had vaginal sex, putting them at greater risk for pregnancy or sexuallytransmitted infections. Consistent with previous literature, sexting was alsoassociated with same-sex sexual behaviors (making out, touching genitals). In short,sexting appears to co-occur with sexual behaviors and may represent anindicator of sexual risk.
Although any sexting appears to be a marker forsexual risk, sending photos is associated with even greater likelihood of earlysexual activity. Students who sent photos were more likely than text-only peersto engage in all of the behaviors above, with the exception of same-sex genitaltouching. Some demographic factors were associated with sending photos; photoswere more likely to have been sent by female adolescents and Latinos. This maybe related to the demographics of those who are requesting sexual photos; forexample, boys may request pictures (of young women) more often; however, thisstudy did not assess characteristics of sexting partners.
Most risk-relatedcognition and emotional competence measures demonstrated differences betweenadolescents who engaged in sexting compared with their non sexting peers(although not between those who sent texts only versus photos). Those who hadsexted endorsed more intentions than their peers to have sex in the next 6months, suggesting that targeted interventions with this group are warranted.Other differences suggest that adolescents who sexted had less awareness oftheir emotional state and perceived less self-efficacy for managing theiremotions. These deficits may make it difficult for youth to react to others ormay lead to impulsive actions driven by feelings (such as sexting). Thesecharacteristics may also lead adolescents to use sexting as a form of self-expression,instead of more emotionally challenging direct interactions. Findings also wereconsistent that those who sexted perceived more acceptance of sexual activityfrom their environment.
These perceptions may normalize and reduce inhibitionsrelated to sex, including sexting. Alternatively, teenagers who sext mayselectively attend to attitudes that condone these behaviors. Longitudinalresearch will be needed to clarify these relationships, but these constructsmay provide direction for interventions with at-risk youth and their families,who should be encouraged to monitor sexting like other sexual behaviorsAge mixing: Thereis also evidence on age mixing with evidence showing that 2% to 6% of femaleadolescents aged 15-19 years old had a partner aged 10 years older than them.Mixing adolescents with older individuals who may have had sexual experiencesmay make them more likely to be inducted into sexual behavior quite earlyPeer influence: Ø Peer socio-demographic attributes, such as age, gender,or in-school status could influencethe behavior of adolescents perhapsby influencing perceived norms abouttheir behaviors, or they might affect whom an adolescent comes into contact with, potentially acting as social network bridges to influential peopleor situations.Ø Perceivedpeer behaviors (descriptive norms) could provide models of behavior to beemulatedØ Peer approval (injunctive norms) might causeadolescents to adapt their behavior in a process similar to that involved with descriptivenorms, but injunctive norms might or might not differ from the behaviors thatadolescents perceive their friends to actually be engaged in.Ø Peer communication could play a role indiffusing information, perceived peer behaviors or norms, or provide a contextin which adolescents could question or re-negotiate dominant norms.
Ø Peer connectedness, or social and emotionalsupport. This is sometimes measured as a count of relationships, a scale oftheir quality, or a score to indicate the degree to which an adolescent’s peersare connected to each other might influence behavior. We include self-esteem inthe domain of peer relationships to be in this category.Ø Status and position within the network of peerrelationships could determine an adolescent’s exposure to information,resources and behaviors that might influence their behavior. Additionally,given the normative pressures on behavior, network position might reflectpopularity and status amongst peers with respect to age/ gender /residence. Anotherstudy found that participants had 1.
7 times the odds of reporting ever havinghad sex if they thought they would lose friends if they did not have sex comparedto those who disagreed with this statement, (Kakoko, 2013), with ever havinghad sex. Early puberty; early onset of puberty might belinked to early sexual debut, unprotected sex, early introduction to alcoholand being drunk. In addition, it could be linked to more aggressive behavior inboys and to more time off school and being bullied in girls. Girls tend to havean earlier onset of puberty, as well as an earlier sexual debut than boys 5.
HISTORY OF PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL ABUSE(COERCED SEXUAL DEBUT) ; DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMSTeenagers who may have a kind of antisocial behavior likehaving been away for one night without their parents knowing, having been in a?ght or hurt someone, having hurt animals, having been violent with a teacherand having threatened or bullied someone are more likely to have an earlysexual debut than the adolescents with an older sexual debut and it was muchmore common for boys to be physically violent towards both people and animalsThe girls in the early debut group had experienced significantlymore sexual abuse than the girls with a later debut and the odds of an earlysexual debut increased if the girl had been sexually abused. Most girlsengaging in early sexual debut state that they had sold sex – that is they haddisplayed their genitals, been photographed or ?lmed, had masturbated forsomeone, had oral sex, vaginal or anal intercourse or had been photographed or?lmed in sexual situations for payment. This was more common in boys and girlsin the early debut group and having sold sex increased the odds of having hadan early sexual debut Experiences of different kinds of physical abuse among boyswere signi?cantly more common in the early debut group. Among boys, experienceof having been pushed or shaken, having something thrown at them, being hitwith an object or a hand, being kicked, burnt or scalded all signi?cantlyincreased the odds of an early sexual debut compared to boys who had notexperienced these types of physical abuse. The results were similar among thegirls: experience of having been pushed or shaken, been hit with a hand, beenkicked and hit or bitten were all associated with increased odds of having hadan early sexual debutExperience of sexual abuse, especially among girls, andphysical abuse, especially among boys, and sexual exploitation were moreprevalent in the group of young people with an early sexual debut.
Association between depressed moods and sexual risk behavioris previously documented internationally, and is supported by the presentfindings. Several studies also show association between depressed moods andsocial class in youth. In summary, psychosocial factors seem to play a somewhatgreater independent role for boys than do the structural factors, while theopposite holds true for girls. This indicates that girls on the one handexperience less reconfirmation and positive validation on theirself-development than do boys. This gender difference accentuated thedifference by social class in self-perception and depressed moods. This givesgirls an added disadvantage, having to oppose more stringent social class powerstructures, and gendered power structures, as they enter the arena of sexualrelationships. The fact that a larger proportion of boys than girls are willingto risk early debut may not be an indication of higher acceptability of variousrisks.
It may also be an indication that boys, to a greater extent acrossparental socioeconomic backgrounds, are vulnerable to possibly compensateemotional stressors or lacks in family function by seeking peeracceptance9 and alternative access to intimacy.