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Longitudinal Patterns of Multidimensional Violence Exposure and Adolescent Early Sexual Initiation

  • Special Section: The Impact of Youth Violence on sexual Health of Adolescents From National and International Perspectives
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A Correction to this article was published on 14 July 2023

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Early sexual intercourse is associated with sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and depressive symptoms, and delay of intercourse allows adolescents opportunities to practice relationship skills (Coker et al., 1994; Harden, 2012; Kugler et al., 2017; Spriggs & Halpern, 2008). Thus, understanding predictors of early sexual intercourse is crucial. Prior research has suggested that violence exposure is associated with early initiation of sexual intercourse in adolescence (Abajobir et al., 2018; Orihuela et al., 2020). However, most studies have looked only at a single type of violence exposure. In addition, little research has examined longitudinal patterns of violence exposure in order to determine whether there are particular periods when the violence exposure may have the strongest impact on sexual behavior. Guided by life history and cumulative disadvantage theories, we use longitudinal latent class analysis and data from the Future of Families and Child Well-being Study (N = 3,396; 51.1% female, 48.9% male) to examine how longitudinal patterns of multiple types of violence exposures across ages 3 to 15 are associated with early sexual initiation in adolescence. Findings suggest that experiencing persistent physical and emotional abuse across childhood was associated with the greatest prevalence of early sexual initiation. Early exposure to violence was not consistently associated with greater likelihood of sexual initiation; instead, early abuse was more strongly associated with sexual initiation for boys, while late childhood abuse was more strongly associated for girls. These findings suggest that gender-sensitive programs are highly needed to address unique risk factors for boys’ and girls’ sexual behaviors.

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Data from this project are available at:

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This study uses Latent Gold software. Code for the distal outcomes analysis is available as an appendix.

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This work was funded by a David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics Tenure-track Assistant Professor Research Seed Grant and by NICHD grant R03 HD096101.

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Correspondence to Sara A. Vasilenko.

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The data used in this study received institution review board approval, and all procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The original version of this article was revised: Some changes to the text of this article—such as in the capitalization or italicization of words, and the level of section headings—were made following its original publication.

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Vasilenko, S.A., Wang, X. & Liu, Q. Longitudinal Patterns of Multidimensional Violence Exposure and Adolescent Early Sexual Initiation. Arch Sex Behav 52, 2881–2896 (2023).

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