Losing Virginity as a Teen Associated With Higher Chance of DivorceJanuary 31st, 2012 by Olivier
The University of Iowa released a study comparing the divorce rates of women who lost their virginity as teens (17 or younger) to women who delayed losing their virginity until adulthood (18 or later). The study was performed by Anthony Paik, a sociology professor of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Paik observed the responses of 3,793 ever married women. This study was published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, and the findings indicate that women who lost their virginity before adulthood had a higher divorce rate.
Women who had sex for the first time as teens (17 or younger) as compared to women who delayed until adulthood (18 or older)
- 31% divorced within 5 years as compared to 15%
- 47% divorced within 10 years as compared to 27%
- 31% had premarital sex with multiple partners versus 24%
- 29% experienced premarital conceptions versus 15%
- 25% had a baby before marriage as opposed to 10%
Unwanted vs. Not Completely Wanted vs. Completely Wanted Sex
If a first sexual experience was unwanted or not completely wanted, there was an even stronger risk of divorce. A majority of women fell into the “unwanted” or “not completely wanted” categories.
Women who experienced their first sex before age 16 were more likely to divorce, regardless of whether the first sex was wanted or not.
Women Who Waited Until Age 16 or 17
If a woman waited until age 16 or 17 and the first sex was completely wanted, there was no direct link to marital dissolution (ONLY as compared to women who waited until adulthood). However, though the sex itself did not increase the likelihood of dissolution, other factors associated with sexuality (e.g., higher number of premarital sexual partners, pregnancy, and out of wedlock birth) increased the risk of divorce for some respondents.
Additionally, only a tiny percentage of women who had sex before age 18 said it was completely wanted.
The results are consistent with the argument that there are down sides to adolescent sexuality, including the increased likelihood of divorce.
Paik on potential explanations for the linkage between adolescent sex and marital dissolution:
One possibility is a selection explanation, that the women who had sex as adolescents were predisposed to divorce. The attitudes that made them feel OK about having sex as teens may have also influenced the outcome of their marriage
The other possibility is a causal explanation — that the early sexual experience led to the development of behaviors or beliefs that promote divorce.
Though Paik asserted that it was too early to determine an explanation, his statistical analysis shows more evidence supporting the causal explanation.
Please keep in mind this study is only a comparison between women who lost their virginity as teenagers and women who waited until adulthood. If a woman waits until adulthood, her chance of divorce is not increased only when compared to women who lost their virginity as teenagers.
For the effects of premarital sex and cohabitation on marriage, please refer to Jay Teachman’s study.
1.) The study covered and explained in Science Daily
2.) The study must be purchased. It can be purchased here
1.) I understand that studies such as these focus on one gender to control for gender, but I tend to get the feeling that whenever virginity or sexual experiences are discussed, there’s an emphasis on women. Society tends to focus on a female’s virginity/sexual history more than a man’s. This double standard should really be done away with.
2.) Generally speaking, society would have you believe that sex is not a big deal and that virginity is over-rated. We are not to judge or condemn people who view sex and virginity differently, but in my opinion nothing speaks louder than research that has been published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals. This study shows that virginity is very much important and that the age and circumstances under which virginity is lost can literally affect the rest of your life.
3.) I would love to see a study which definitively examines the reasons for the link between premarital sex, cohabitation, teen sex and divorce. Such a study, confirming the causal hypothesis, could be a great piece of data for the waiting community.