Negative feelings about the timing of first sexual intercourse: findings from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study

  • Nathalie MoreauEmail author
  • András Költő
  • Honor Young
  • Florence Maillochon
  • Emmanuelle Godeau
Original Article



This study investigates the association between negative feelings about the first intercourse timing and sociodemographic and contextual factors. We hypothesized that girls and adolescents with an older first sexual partner will be more likely to report negative feelings and that prevalence of those feelings will vary across countries.


Adolescents (N = 6073, mean age = 15.6 ± 0.34), from Bulgaria, France, Ireland, and Scotland, taking part in the 2013/2014 HBSC study, were asked about sexual initiation, their age and partner’s age at first intercourse, and their feeling about the timing of first intercourse.


One-fifth of the 1321 adolescents who had had sexual intercourse reported negative feelings about the first intercourse timing. Girls, adolescents from low affluent families, and those with an older first partner were more likely to report negative feelings. However, after adjustment for covariates, only girls and those from less affluent families had significantly higher odds of reporting negative feelings.


Sexual education programmes need to explicitly address decision-making around timing of first intercourse in order to reduce negative feelings, with a special attention to gender and social inequalities.


Adolescence First sexual intercourse Negative feelings International comparisons HBSC 



The authors thank the schools and students who participated to the 2014 HBSC survey. The HBSC survey is an international study carried out in collaboration with WHO/EURO. The International Coordinator of the 2013/2014 survey was Dr Joanna Inchley (University of St Andrews, Scotland) and the Data Bank Manager was Professor Oddrun Samdal (University of Bergen, HBSC Data Management Centre, Norway). We would also like to thank the following Principal Investigators of national HBSC Teams who gave permission to use national data from the given country: Lidiya Vasileva (Bulgaria), Emmanuelle Godeau (France), Saoirse Nic Gabhainn (Ireland) and Joanna Inchley (Scotland). We gratefully acknowledge HBSC Sexual Health Focus Group, Alina Cosma (CAHRU, University of St Andrews, United-Kingdom), Saoirse Nic Gabhainn (National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland), Einar B. Thorsteinsson (University of New England, Australia), Marta Reis (University of Lisbon, Portugal), Katia Castetbon (ESP-ULB, Brussels, Belgium), and Virginie Ehlinger (Inserm U1027, Toulouse, France) for their valuable comments on the first version of the manuscript. For details on HBSC, see

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no Conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Each country obtained approval from institutional or national ethical boards according to national procedures and guidelines and the study is conducted in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

In all countries, parents were informed about the study. Informed consent was sought from students in Bulgaria. Passive parental consent was obtained in France and Scotland. In Ireland active or passive consent was obtained based on the school’s discretion. Young people were informed about the survey and were free to decline participation, leave blank any questions they did not wish to answer and that they could withdraw from participation at any time if they wished.


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Service d’Information Promotion Education Santé (SIPES), Centre de Recherche “Epidémiologie, Biostatistiques et recherche clinique”, Ecole de Santé PubliqueUniversité Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Health Promotion Research CentreNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland
  3. 3.Institute of PsychologyELTE Eötvös Loránd UniversityBudapestHungary
  4. 4.Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), School of Social SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  5. 5.Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, ENSCentre Maurice Halbwachs (CNRS, ENS, EHESS)ParisFrance
  6. 6.École des hautes études en santé publique (EHESP)RennesFrance
  7. 7.Service Médical du Rectorat de l’académie de Toulouse, UMR 1027 InsermUniversité Paul SabatierToulouseFrance

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