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Adolescents Who Have Had Four or More Sexual Partners by Family Structure and Religious Practice

Adolescents (aged 13 to 19) raised in an intact family that attended religious services weekly or more were least likely to have had four or more sexual partners in the past year, according to the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health.[1]

Family Structure: Adolescents raised in intact married families were least likely to have had four or more sexual partners in the past year (5.9 percent). Teens raised in married stepfamilies were more likely to have had four or more sexual partners (9.9 percent), as were those in intact cohabiting families (11.7 percent), single-divorced-parent families (11.9 percent), and cohabiting stepfamilies (15.8 percent). Comparatively, adolescents raised in cohabiting stepfamilies were more than twice as likely as those raised in intact married families to have had four or more sexual partners (15.8 percent versus 5.9 percent, respectively).   

Religious Practice: Thirteen-to-nineteen-year-olds who attended religious services weekly or more were least likely to have had four or more sexual partners in the past year (6.3 percent). Adolescents who never attended church and adolescents who attended less than once a week were more likely to have four or more sexual partners: there was almost no statistical difference between the two (8.8 percent verse 8.9 percent respectively).

Family Structure and Religious Practice Combined: Adolescents were least likely to have four or more sexual partners in the past year when raised in intact worshipping families (4.4 percent). Teens raised in intact non-worshipping families were more likely to have four or more sexual partners (5.6 percent), as were those in non-intact worshipping families (11.3 percent) and non-intact non-worshiping families (14 percent). Comparatively, those from non-intact non-worshiping families were more than three times as likely to have four or more sexual partners as those raise in an intact worshiping family (14 percent versus 4.4 percent respectively).

Related Insights from Other Studies: Research shows that adolescent girls living in intact married families have the fewest number of sexual partners prior to marriage of any family structure (on average 0.71 sexual partners).[2] Research also shows that adolescents from intact married families have the fewest number of sexual partners, principally due to the effect of intact family structure on delaying sexual debut.[3]

Religious worship also plays a role in premarital sexual activity. According to the Relationships in America Survey, those who are married and attending religious service weekly are 31 percent less likely to have had premarital sex than those who are married and have never attended religious service.[4]

 

[1]The data come from Wave 1 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health).  Respondents were asked to respond to the question “Since January 1, with how many people in total have you had a sexual relationship?” Their answers choices were to give a specific number or to answer “refused,” “legitimate skip,” “don’t know,” or “not applicable.”

[2] Patrick F. Fagan, “Family Structure and Sexual Intercourse Partners–Adolescent Girls.” MARRI, Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA08E04

[3] Samuel W. Sturgeon, “The Relationship between Family Structure and Adolescent Sexual Activity” The Heritage Foundation (November 2008): 13. Available at http://www.familyfacts.org/featuredfinding/ff_01.pdf.

[4] The Austin Institute of the Study of Family and Culture, “Relationships in America Survey,” The Austin Institute of the Study of Family and Culture, (2014) http://relationshipsinamerica.com/relationships-and-sex/how-common-is-premarital-sex.