Date: 04 Mar 2014

Sexual Initiation and Emotional/Behavioral Problems in Taiwanese Adolescents: A Multivariate Response Profile Analysis

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Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the relations of adolescent sexual experiences (particularly early initiation) to a spectrum of emotional/behavioral problems and to probe possible gender difference in such relationships. The 10th (N = 8,842) and 12th (N = 10,083) grade students, aged 16–19 years, participating in national surveys in 2005 and 2006 in Taiwan were included for this study. A self-administered web-based questionnaire was designed to collect information on sociodemographic characteristics, sexual experience, substance use, and the Youth Self-Report Form. For the sexually experienced adolescents, their sexual initiation was classified as early initiation (<16 years) or non-early initiation (16–19 years). Gender-specific multivariate response profile regression was used to examine the relationship between sexual experience and the behavioral syndromes. Externalizing problems, including Rule-breaking Behavior and Aggressive Behavior, were strongly associated with sexual initiation in adolescence; the magnitude of the association increased for earlier sexual initiation, especially for females. As to internalizing problems, the connection was rather heterogeneous. The scores on some syndromes, such as Somatic Complaints and Anxious/Depressed, were higher only for females with early or non-early sexual initiation whereas the score on Withdrawn, along with Social Problems that is neither internalizing nor externalizing, was lower for the sexually experienced adolescents than for the sexually inexperienced ones. We concluded that earlier sexual initiation was associated with a wider range of behavioral problems in adolescents for both genders, yet the increased risk with emotional problems was predominately found in females.