Premarital first births: The influence of the timing of sexual onset versus post-onset risks in the United States

Lawrence L. Wu, Steven P. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Motivated by long-standing debates between abstinence proponents and sceptics, we examine how socio-economic factors influence premarital first births via: (i) age at first sexual intercourse and (ii) the risk of a premarital first birth following the onset of sexual activity. Factors associated with an earlier age at first intercourse will imply more premarital first births owing to increased exposure to risk, but many of these same factors will also be associated with higher risks of a premarital first birth following onset. Our analyses confirm previous findings that women from disadvantaged backgrounds are younger at first intercourse and have higher premarital first-birth risks than women from more advantaged backgrounds. However, differences in onset timing have a strikingly smaller influence on premarital first-birth probabilities than do differences in post-onset risks. Our findings thus suggest that premarital first births result primarily from differences in post-onset risk behaviours as opposed to differences in onset timing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-297
Number of pages17
JournalPopulation Studies
Volume69
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2 2015

Keywords

  • United States
  • event history analysis
  • exposure
  • first intercourse
  • premarital first birth
  • premarital sex behaviour
  • prevalence
  • sexual abstinence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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