Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 10, pp 1211–1225 | Cite as

Early Adolescent Sexual Initiation and Physical/Psychological Symptoms: A Comparative Analysis of Five Nations

  • Aubrey Spriggs MadkourEmail author
  • Tilda Farhat
  • Carolyn Tucker Halpern
  • Emmanuelle Godeau
  • Saoirse Nic Gabhainn
Empirical Research


Although most people in developed countries experience sexual initiation during adolescence, little is known about inter-country variability in the psychosocial correlates of early initiation. Population-based samples of 15-year-olds (n = 6,111, 52% female) who participated in the Health Behaviors in School-Aged Children Study (Finland, Scotland, France and Poland, 1997/1998) or the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (United States, 1996) self-reported sexual intercourse experience and physical (headaches, trouble sleeping) or psychological (unhappiness, loneliness, sadness, moodiness) symptoms. Analyses were conducted stratified by gender. Sexual initiation prevalence and symptoms scores varied significantly across nations. In adjusted models, sexual initiation was not related to symptoms among boys in any nation, but significantly positively related to symptoms among girls in Poland and the US. Results support variability by gender and nation in the relationship between adolescents’ sexual initiation and physical/psychological symptoms. Empirically investigating specific features of national contexts that generate these differences should be explored further.


Sexual behavior Adolescent Gender differences Depressive symptoms Cross-national 



This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. HBSC is an international study carried out in collaboration with WHO/EURO. The international coordinator of the 2005–2006 study was Candace Currie, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; and the data bank manager was Oddrun Samdal, University of Bergen, Norway. Data from the following countries were included in the present study (principal investigators are given in parentheses): Finland (Jorma Tynjälä), France (Emmanuelle Godeau), Poland (Joanna Mazur), Scotland (Candace Currie). Dr. Madkour’s time on this project was partially supported by the Carolina Population Center, NICHD NRSA predoctoral traineeship, grant number NIH-NICHD T32-HD07168. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the 2009 Meeting of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aubrey Spriggs Madkour
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tilda Farhat
    • 2
  • Carolyn Tucker Halpern
    • 3
  • Emmanuelle Godeau
    • 4
  • Saoirse Nic Gabhainn
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Community Health SciencesTulane University School of Public Health & Tropical MedicineNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.Prevention Research Branch, Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention ResearchEunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentBethesdaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Maternal and Child Health & Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.UMR Inserm U558University Paul Sabatier Toulouse and Service médical du Rectorat de l’académie de ToulouseToulouseFrance
  5. 5.Health Promotion Research Centre, School of Health SciencesNational University of Ireland GalwayGalwayIreland

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