Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 276–282

Sexual Trajectories during Adolescence: Relation to Demographic Characteristics and Sexual Risk

  • Hanneke de Graaf
  • Ine Vanwesenbeeck
  • Suzanne Meijer
  • Liesbeth Woertman
  • Wim Meeus
Original Paper

Abstract

The “sexual trajectory” is an age-graded set of various new sexual experiences, defined by three key dimensions: sequence, duration, and timing. A comprehensive description of sexual trajectories creates the possibility to investigate potential risks of certain trajectory types. The present study attempted to answer three questions: (1) Is it possible to identify a typology in (the early stages of) sexual trajectories? (2) Is sexual trajectory type related to demographic characteristics, such as sex, ethnic background, and educational level? (3) What are the associations between sexual trajectory type and recent sexual risk behavior? A representative Dutch sample of 1,263 males and 1,353 females (M = 20.46 years; range, 12–25) who had engaged in sexual intercourse completed a questionnaire about sexual (health) behavior. About three quarters of participants followed a progressive sexual trajectory from less intimate (e.g., kissing) to more intimate behavior (e.g., sexual intercourse). Immigrant groups and less educated youth were more likely to follow a nonlinear trajectory. A progressive trajectory was associated with a higher likelihood of consistent contraceptive use with the most recent partner and, for girls, with a lower likelihood of having unprotected anal intercourse with the last partner. It was hypothesized that the nonlinear trajectory could be ascribed to a lack of opportunities or skills to plan and steer early sexual experiences and that these limitations were fairly stable over time. Sexual education should aim at providing adolescents with sufficient (self) knowledge and skills to construct their sexual trajectories according to their own wishes or needs.

Keywords

Sexual trajectory Sexual behavior Sexual risks Contraception 

References

  1. Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brook, J. S., Balka, E. B., Abernathy, T., & Hamburg, B. A. (1994). Sequence of sexual behavior and its relationship to other problem behaviors in African American and Puerto Rican adolescents. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 155, 107–114.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brugman, E., Goedhart, H., Vogels, T., & Van Zessen, G. (1995). Jeugd en seks 95. Resultaten van het nationale scholierenonderzoek [Youth and sexuality 95. Results from the national high school students survey]. Utrecht, The Netherlands: SWP.Google Scholar
  4. Cowart-Steckler, D. (1984). A Guttman scale of sexual experience: An update. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 10(2), 49–52.Google Scholar
  5. Davis, P., & Lay-Yee, R. (1999). Early sex and its behavioral consequences in New Zealand. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 135–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. de Graaf, H., Meijer, S., Poelman, J., & Vanwesenbeeck, I. (2005). Seks onder je 25 e : Seksuele gezondheid van jongeren in Nederland anno 2005 [Sex under 25: Sexual health of young people in the Netherlands in the year 2005]. Delft, The Netherlands: Eburon.Google Scholar
  7. Feldman, S. S., Turner, R. A., & Araujo, K. (1999). Interpersonal contexts as an influence on sexual timetables of youths: Gender and ethnic effects. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 9, 25–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Greenberg, J., Magder, L., & Aral, S. (1992). Age at first coitus: A marker for risky sexual behavior in women. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 19, 331–334.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hagestad, G. (1996). On-time, off-time, out of time? Reflections on continuity and discontinuity from an illness process. In V. Bengtson (Ed.), Adulthood and aging: Research on continuities and discontinuities (pp. 204–222). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Hansen, W. B., Wolkenstein, B. H., & Hahn, G. L. (1992). Young adult sexual behavior: Issues in programming and evaluation. Health Education Research, 7, 305–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jakobsen, R. (1997). Stages of progression in noncoital sexual interactions among young adolescents: An application of the Mokken scale analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 21, 537–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lam, T. H., Shi, H. J., Ho, L. M., Stewart, S. M., & Fan, S. (2002). Timing in pubertal maturation and heterosexual behavior among Hong Kong Chinese adolescents. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 359–366.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mosher, W., Chandra, A., & Jones, J. (2005). Sexual behavior and selected health measures: Men and women 15–44 years of age, United States, 2002. Advance data from vital and health statistics, No. 362. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  14. Nooij, A. (1995). Variabelen en modellen [Variables and models]. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Boom.Google Scholar
  15. Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Petersen, A. C., Leffert, N., & Graham, B. L. (1995). Adolescent development and the emergence of sexuality. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 25, 4–17.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Rademakers, J., & Straver, C. (1986). Van fascinatie naar relatie: Het leren omgaan met relaties en sexualiteit in de jeugdperiode; een ontwikkelingsdynamische studie [From fascination to relationship: Learning how to deal with relationships and sexuality during adolescence; a developmental-dynamic study]. Zeist, The Netherlands: NISSO.Google Scholar
  18. Rosenthal, D. A., & Smith, A. M. A. (1997). Adolescent sexual timetables. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 26, 619–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Smith, E. A., & Udry, J. R. (1985). Coital and non-coital sexual behaviors of white and black adolescents. American Journal of Public Health, 75, 1200–1203.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Thompson, S. (1990). Putting a big thing into a little hole: Teenage girls’ accounts of sexual initiation. Journal of Sex Research, 30, 18–26.Google Scholar
  21. van Ginneken, B., Ohlrichs, Y., & Van Dam, A. (2004). Zwijgen is zonde; over seksuele vorming voor multiculturele en -religieuze jongeren [Keeping silent is a sin; about sex education for multicultural and religious youth]. Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rutgers Nisso Groep.Google Scholar
  22. van Zessen, G. (1995). Wisselend contact: Seksuele levensverhalen van mensen met veel partners [Changing partners: Sexual life histories of people with multiple partners]. Leiden, The Netherlands: DSWO Press.Google Scholar
  23. Vanwesenbeeck, I. (1997). Female sexual power and control: From problem to promise. In A. van Lenning, M. Bekker, & I. Vanwesenbeeck (Eds.), Feminist utopias in a postmodern era (pp. 161–175). Tilburg, The Netherlands: Tilburg University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanneke de Graaf
    • 1
  • Ine Vanwesenbeeck
    • 1
  • Suzanne Meijer
    • 2
  • Liesbeth Woertman
    • 3
  • Wim Meeus
    • 4
  1. 1.Rutgers Nisso GroepUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.STI AIDS NetherlandsAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Clinical and Health PsychologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Research Centre Adolescent DevelopmentUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations