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Study Says That Teens In Low Income Households Start Having Sex Sooner

Researchers, psychologists and others in the medical field have known for years that genes play an important role in how soon teens begin to engage in sexual activity. Genes determine when a teen reaches puberty, and this is a strong factor for what is known as At First Sex, or AFS. However, a recent study showed that, in low-income families experiencing stress, environmental factors will be an even stronger determinant as to when they begin having sex.

Socioeconomic Status is a Factor

The study was done at the University of Texas at Austin. A comparison of adolescents from low-income families and more affluent families showed a remarkable difference between the two. Adolescents from more socioeconomic-advantaged families were much more influenced by genes when it came to AFS, while teens from low-socioeconomic-status and ethnic-minority families were more influenced by their environment.

Low Income Teens Have Sex Because of Stress

In the low-income, more stressful environments, genes took a back seat when it came to influencing when these teens began having sex. The environment assumed a more prominent influence on teens in these families and became more important in predicting when they would start becoming sexually active. The study was the first of its kind in researching how the role of genes can actually differ and change with the environment.

The Average Age When Sexual Activity Starts is 17

The study represented an important step in understanding and responding to teen sexuality in America today. According to the Guttmacher Institute, an American organization that researches sexual and reproductive health and rights in the U.S., on average, young people have sex for the first time at about age 17, putting them at increased risk for unintended pregnancy and STIs (sexually-transmitted infections). The study results may provide valuable information that will help at-risk teens engaging in high-risk sexual behavior.

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