Felson et al. (2019) used a large-scale nationally representative Finnish sample of sixth and ninth graders to estimate the population prevalence of negative subjective reactions to sexual experiences between minors under age 18 and persons at least 5 years older and between minors and peer-aged partners for comparison. They then accounted for these reactions in multivariate analysis based on contextual factors. The present study argued that focusing exclusively on negative reactions short-changed a fuller scientific understanding. It analyzed the full range of reactions in the same sample, focusing on positive reactions. For reactions in retrospect, boys frequently reacted positively to minor-older sex (68%, n = 280 cases), on par with positive reactions to boy-peer sex (67%, n = 1510). Girls reacted positively to minor-older sex less often (36%, n = 1047) and to girl-peer sex half the time (48%, n = 1931). In both minor-older and minor-peer sex, rates of positive reactions were higher for boys vs. girls, adolescents vs. children, when partners were friends vs. strangers or relatives, with intercourse vs. lesser forms of sexual intimacy, with more frequent sex, and when not coerced. Boys reacted positively more often with female than male partners. In minor-older sex, partner age difference mattered for girls but not boys, and the minor’s initiating the sex (14% for girls, 46% for boys) produced equally high rates of positive reactions. Most of these factors remained significant in multivariate analysis. The frequency of positive reactions, their responsiveness to context, the similarity in reaction patterns with minor-peer sex, and the generalizability of the sample were argued to contradict the trauma view often applied to minor-older sex, holding it to be intrinsically aversive irrespective of context.
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For support for gender differences in general in sexuality, they cited: Baumeister et al. (2001), Baumeister and Tice (2001), Buss (2000), and Laumann et al. (1994). For support for gender differences between boys and girls, they cited the review by Okami and Shackelford (2001) and the works by Ellis and Symons (1990) and Knoth et al. (1988). For support for gender differences in early development in deviant behavior, they cited Staff et al. (2015).
For girls, data from heterosexual offenses, aggression, and incest were combined. Aggression and incest were rare for boys and not reported as a separate category.
This resulted in excluding 9.7% of cases for having a reported age difference less than 4 years.
Proportions indicating sex with someone 5 or more years older, regardless of actual age difference when ages were reported, were 11.9%, 4.7%, and 2.9% in 1988, 2008, and 2013, respectively.
In the actual questionnaire, one response option was amazement, bewilderment, or confusion, translated here as “surprise,” given the conventional usage in previous CSA research (see Rind et al., 1998).
Retrieved June 3, 2019 at: https://services.fsd.uta.fi/catalogue/FSD2943?study_language=en&lang=en
Following Felson et al., “5” is used here and subsequently for the lower limit, even though a measured age difference of 4 was included, which, as noted in the text above, Felson et al. included because of rounding considerations.
In Table 1, the reported value was OR = 0.20, the odds of girls reacting positively divided by the odds of boys reacting positively. The reverse (the odds of boys to girls reacting positively) equals 1 divided by the reported value (here, 1 divided by 0.20, yielding 5.06). In the text, this reverse-reporting is often used going forward for ease of presentation.
Considering all n = 1429 participants across the three time periods indicating an emotional response, 68.2% chose one adjective only, while 18.5% chose two, and 10.6% choose three.
The frequency variable was dichotomized because the 3-level version led to extreme standard errors due to multicollinearity problems.
Frequency, though measured somewhat differently for minor-peer and minor-older sex, was included because multiple encounters, measured either way, were expected to affect reactions, and because the effects of repeated episodes have been a central theme in the literature.
For girls, the incidence in 1988 was 16.0%, which dropped to 6.6% in 2008, and then further to 3.8% in 2013. For boys, the incidence was 5.5% in 1988, falling to 2.0% in 2008, and then to 1.1% in 2013.
Here, probability(positive reaction) = emodel/(1 + emodel), where e = 2.71828 and “model” is the logistic regression model (i.e., the right-hand side of the equation).
The model for girls was: logit(positive reaction) = 31.33 − .32(aged under 12) + .49(aged 15–17) + 2.68(female partner) − .87(partner a stranger) − .2.11(partner a relative) − 1.06(partner other) − .76(non-contact sex) − .47(touching sex) + 1.50(not coerced) + 1.23(participant initiated it) + .78(age difference 5–9) + .13(age difference 10–19) − 1.01(frequency once) − .40(frequency 2–10) − .02(survey year). The model for boys was: logit(positive reaction) = − 22.81 − 2.16(aged under 12) − .90(aged 15–17) + 2.47(female partner) − .90(partner a stranger) − .76(partner a relative) + .66(partner other) − 2.02(non-contact sex) + .13(touching sex) − .72(not coerced) + .89(participant initiated it) + 1.17(age difference 5–9) + 1.50(age difference 10–19) − 3.10(frequency once) − 2.29(frequency 2–10) − .01(survey year). Values for the characteristics were 1 (true) or 0 (false); for survey years, they were 1988, 2008, or 2013.
Nearly all of the 25 boys in the Sandfort (1984) study reacted positively, a discrepancy with the current predictions probably due to other factors not measured in the Finnish sample, such as non-sexual benefits obtained in the relationship (e.g., emotional support, mentoring), which were extensive in Sandfort’s sample.
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Rind, B. Reactions to Minor-Older and Minor-Peer Sex as a Function of Personal and Situational Variables in a Finnish Nationally Representative Student Sample. Arch Sex Behav 51, 961–985 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-02224-0
- Minor-older sex
- Minor-peer sex
- Child sexual abuse
- Consensual sex
- Sexual coercion