Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 373–385 | Cite as

Rethinking Timing of First Sex and Delinquency

  • K. Paige Harden
  • Jane Mendle
  • Jennifer E. Hill
  • Eric Turkheimer
  • Robert E. Emery
Empirical Research


The relation between timing of first sex and later delinquency was examined using a genetically informed sample of 534 same-sex twin pairs from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, who were assessed at three time points over a 7-year interval. Genetic and environmental differences between families were found to account for the association between earlier age at first sex and increases in delinquency. After controlling for these genetic and environmental confounds using a quasi-experimental design, earlier age at first sex predicted lower levels of delinquency in early adulthood. The current study is contrasted with previous research with non-genetically informative samples, including Armour and Haynie (2007, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36, 141–152). Results suggest a more nuanced perspective on the meaning and consequences of adolescent sexuality than is commonly put forth in the literature.


Adolescent sexual behavior First sex Sexual debut Delinquency Behavior genetics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Paige Harden
    • 1
  • Jane Mendle
    • 1
  • Jennifer E. Hill
    • 1
  • Eric Turkheimer
    • 1
  • Robert E. Emery
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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