Researchers reported that 28% of black male high school students in some U.S. metropolitan areas reported having sexual intercourse before age 13 years.
“Young men having sex before age 13 usually haven’t received the appropriate sex education and services, and we need a better system to respond to their needs,” Arik V. Marcell, MD, MPH, associated professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, said in a press release. “The cultural double standard about sexual behavior in the United States, in which it is OK for young boys, but not girls, to be sexually active, has prevented us from effectively addressing male adolescents’ vulnerabilities and their healthy sexual development.”
Marcell and colleagues analyzed pooled 2011, 2013 and 2015 data from the school-based Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), and 2007 to 2015 data of males aged 15 to 24 years from the household-based National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG).
Their analysis included 19,916 male high school students from YRBSS and 7,739 males aged 15 to 24 years from NSFG. White non-Hispanic males were the majority in both cohorts (57.1%, YRBSS; 58%, NSFG).
Marcell and colleagues wrote that 7.6% of male high school students and 3.6% of males aged 15 to 24 years reported first sexual intercourse before age 13 years. There was a wide range in the proportion of male students who reported sexual intercourse before the age of 13 years — from 5% of students in San Francisco to 25% in Memphis, Tennessee. Students in Milwaukee and Chicago also had high a proportion reporting sex before age 13 years (19% and 18%, respectively). The estimated proportion of non-Hispanic black males reporting sex before age 13 years in metropolitan areas ranged from 12% to 28%, whereas the proportion of Hispanic male students ranged from 6% to 17%, and the proportion of non-Hispanic white students ranged from 2% to 10%.
In their analysis of the NSFG data, the researchers found that males whose mothers had a college degree were significantly less likely to report sex before age 13 years (OR = 0.31%, 95% CI, 0.19-0.49) compared with respondents whose mothers did not have a college degree.
The researchers wrote that 8.5% of the males who reported having sex before age 13 years described the experience as “unwanted.”
“I have heard boys and adolescents talk about their first sex encounters in a way that suggests they didn’t anticipate, understand or know what was happening or what’s appropriate and what’s not,” Marcell said in the release. “I was concerned that such early sex experience happening to boys could be unwanted and influence their future health. We used the data available to us in these surveys to attempt a better look at the scale and pattern of this problem across the nation.” – by Bruce Thiel
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.