Older boyfriends and girlfriends increase risk of sexual initiation in young adolescents

Barbara Vanoss Marín, Karin K. Coyle, Cynthia A. Gómez, Scott C. Carvajal, Douglas B. Kirby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Purpose: To explore the prevalence and impact of older boyfriends or girlfriends on sexual behavior in sixth graders (mean age 11.5 years). Methods: Students in 19 ethnically diverse middle schools in an urban area were surveyed (n = 2829, response rate 68%). Instrument measured demographics, age of oldest boyfriend or girlfriend, unwanted sexual advances, peer norms, and sexual behavior. Students with older, same-age, or no boyfriend or girlfriend were compared on demographic and psychosocial variables using analysis of variance. Separate multivariate logistic regressions for both boys and girls were used to predict sexual behavior from demographics, psychosocial variables, and age categories of boyfriend or girlfriend. Results: One-half of the respondents (56%) had never had a serious boyfriend or girlfriend, 35% reported that their oldest boyfriend or girlfriend was <2 years older than they, and 8.5% reported a partner ≥2 years older. Those reporting an older boyfriend or girlfriend were more likely to be Hispanic, were less acculturated, reported more unwanted sexual advances and more friends who were sexually active, and, among girls, were more likely to have experienced menarche. Overall, 4% of students reported ever having had sex. Students with an older boyfriend or girlfriend were over 30 times more likely than those with no boyfriend or girlfriend ever to have had sex (odds ratio = 33.8 for boys and 44.2 for girls). In the multivariate logistic regressions, peer norms about sexual behavior, having experienced unwanted sexual advances, and having a boyfriend or girlfriend were strongly associated with having had sex. Conclusions: Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend, although rare, is associated with early sexual onset and unwanted sexual activity in this population of sixth graders. Copyright (C) 2000 .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-418
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000


  • Acculturation
  • Adolescent
  • Ethnic differences
  • Gender differences
  • Older partner
  • Sexual behavior
  • Sexual initiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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