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Losing Virginity as a Teen Associated With Higher Chance of Divorce

January 31st, 2012 by

Two teens hugging in front of a blackboard


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)

Other Facts

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.

Important Note

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.

Author: Olivier

Olivier writes many of the site's articles, some articles requiring many hours of research; he also helps with site strategy/focus. He has a Bachelors in Accounting, Masters in Theology, and is currently an accounting manager for a teleconferencing solutions company. In his spare time he enjoys reading, writing, NFL, and movies.

31 Responses to “Losing Virginity as a Teen Associated With Higher Chance of Divorce”

  1. Sophie says:

    Well I’m 18 so I’m officially in the clear! lol. I am still only considering WTM, but at least now I know that having premarital sex won’t affect my married life.

  2. ThatGuy says:


    Thnx for the feedback. This is my fault. I should’ve made the article a bit clearer.

    Premarital sex DOES affect your married life. Premarital sex increases chance of divorce. Read the study by Jay Teachman.

    This study only compares women who lost it as a teen vs. women who lost it as adulthood. In other words, a woman who loses it at 18 or older will not have an increased chance of divorce ONLY when compared to a woman who lost it as a teenager.

    However, when both these sets of women (who lost virginity as teens and women who waited until adulthood)
    are compared to women who did not engage in premarital sex, women who abstained have lower chances of divorce.

    I updated the article in several places. Let me know if it’s clearer? Sorry about that.

  3. LookingForTheOne says:


    No, premarital sex still affects your married life. It just happens to be worse when it’s also accompanied by not being an adult.

    That is, premarital sex after one’s 18th birthday isn’t as bad as the same thing before one’s 18th birthday, but it is still to be avoided.

  4. Sally says:

    TG, great job again!!! :) Im glad you put in tge reflection about the double standard, because there isnt much about men and virginity. Its like expected you’ll lise it before marriage, so then you can “lead” your virgin wife. What a load of crap lol

  5. ThatGuy says:

    thnx, Sally. My next few articles will be inspirational (hopefully) and practical, but when I go back to statistics I have studies that include BOTH men and women. I try my best to include both genders :-)

  6. Sophie says:

    I see. Thank you for explaining! :)

  7. Shannon says:

    It doesn’t matter if you have had sex before marriage, it all depends on if you find the right guy. This is all a load of crap. If people want to have sex its their decision. Sex is a huge part of a relationship, and to not know how someone is sexually, then spend the rest of your life with them unhappy with your sexual life is a huge risk. If someone chooses to wait that is great, but to force this information down someones throat is horrible. I love sex and as long as I am in a safe and committed relationship I will have sex, marriage or not. Sophie, don’t let these people tell you that you’ve done something bad, you are fine and one day when you meet your husband he will not care about what you did at 18 years old.

  8. ThatGuy says:

    Hi Shannon,

    A bit harsh don’t you think? There’s a way to provide constructive criticism without sounding venomous or antagonistic.

    We have many non-waiters who come here, and most of them are respectful, friendly, and maybe even give us some tips here and there. You did none of that.

    I’m not going to argue with you about premarital sex. Like you said it’s your choice, and I agree. Sophie simply pointed out a flaw in my writing and I promptly adjusted the article, nothing more nothing less.

    Sophie is an awesome girl. And guess what? If you ask her, I’m sure she’ll tell you that nobody on the forums forces their views on her. I believe sex should be saved for marriage, but if Sophie chooses otherwise I won’t judge her.

    However, I will say “Why shoot the messenger?” No disrespect, but if the various studies on this site seem like “crap” to you, feel free to contact the journals and researchers and advise them of the flaws that reviewers and seasoned professionals missed.

    I also find it interesting how you complained about my alleged shoving information down people’s throats and yet you yourself did just that. Details about your sex life… seriously?? No disrespect, but TMI.

    You see, had you read the reflections section and browsed around the site you would realize that we are not judgmental and that I’m not so “horrible”. This site provides enrichment to people who have already made the choice, or people who want to learn more about WTM. People come to us.

    We’re not in the business of making people feel bad, we’re in the business of providing encouragement to one another. We don’t bash others here, but then again you didn’t browse enough to realize that.

    I wish you nothing but health, happiness, and success, Shannon. Thank you for your time.

  9. LookingForTheOne says:

    Shannon is a troll, basically. She came to comment on a thread that saw no comments in 5 days! And then (on a website about waiting till marriage, no less!) she started to talk about how it doesn’t really matter.

    It’s almost as if she hasn’t even read any of the other articles on the site. I see the compatibility argument (“not know how someone is sexually”) which was debunked earlier.

    I hate to sound harsh, but this had to be said.

  10. Dk-babe says:

    hi. i just discovred this site and must say its pretty amazing.
    i’m 26, WTM and engaged to be married to the most wonderful man ever!

    I must add though, the issue of sex about WTM needs no argument people. Having Sex is a choice, so is commiting Crime. You only feel like you are being judged when there’s an element of guilt. If you commit crime, you WILL be judged, whether by an earthly court or by a heavenly court. Likewise, if you have sex before marriage, that sexual relationship will be the judge of you! its that simple. Search your heart, you know the truth deep down inside you.

    However, if you are WTM, well done and please stick it out! you are preparing for an amazing, wholesome and balanced marriage.


  11. Lexie says:

    I lost my virginity at 15 and have slept with 3 men in total (all boyfriends) and have now decided to wait untill marrige. I think this study is interesting but also a bit off. I am waiting untill marrige now because of moral and religious reasons and do not belive that loosing my verginity and a later age would make any diference. I think maturity is the real issue with sex, not age.

  12. Guest says:

    I am a virgin and 16 and proud :) and waiting for marriage

  13. Olivier says:

    Hi Lexie – thanks for the input. Congrats on your decision to wait. If you haven’t already, please join the forums. Trust me, it’s a fun place to be :-)

    Guest – Congrats on your decision. If you haven’t already, feel free to join the forums. This site only gets better :-)

  14. Jane says:


    I’m WTM and always suspected that having multiple partners before marriage can lead to a higher divorce rate, and this article is so spot on.
    What would be interesting to see is the effect of one of the individuals not having waited, whereas the other has. Ie, if the woman was a virgin and the man wasn’t – or vice versa. I can only imagine that such a marriage would have enormous strains from the jealousy of the virgin and also where the person wonders why they waited at all…

  15. anonymous says:

    my assumption is that, a girls’ first sex experience is done with all the love and trust for that one special guy of his life, right? otherwise, she’s forced. now, if that’s the case, however you try to think about it, the girl will always remember the day she first made love. perhaps, at the back of her mind, she’ll compare her husband with the one who she first had sex with, more over with other guy she had sex with.Especially when her marriage is unstable.I can conclude that one way or another, it’ll affect a marriage. besides, first time sex is the most intense sex a girl will ever have and that’s the reason why it’ll leave something behind.

  16. Jesusfreak says:

    Here’s my call:
    If I can somehow manage to make it to my marriage bed (okay, honestly I’m sure I’ll do it just fine.) a virgin, then I will have litter ally waited my whole life to give this huge thing to somebody. I’m going to have spent along time praying for this person, and considering the seriousness of marriage… And I havent met very many WTMers who are even entertaining the notion of divorce. If they’re going to marry this guy, then they’re going to make it work (unless he is abusive or something).. While I’ve obsorbed myself in the science of waiting, at first that was the conclusion I came to.

    Also, your 60/40% is the same percent found in churches of girls to guys. Non-assosciated, possibly, but it’s no t a hige coincidence.
    I’m really excited to have found this site, and i’m glad their are so many others out their who think waiting is the way to go.

  17. Jesusfreak says:

    … Whoops, forgot my thesis. : and that’s probably why the stat of waiting to divorce is so low- the mindset associated w. 2 ppl who believe in waiting.

  18. Samantha says:

    Just because a study found a correlation between two variables does not prove causality. Simply because one engages in pre martial sex does not necessarily mean that for that exact reason they are more prone to becoming divorced.

  19. Refformer says:

    I’m 31, a virgin, proudly WTM. Its possible. No regrets. I love this site; Please keep this good work on. Love u all.

  20. Anna Lacey says:

    Exactly Samantha! One of the first rules in science is that a correlation does not equal causation. Causation cannot be claimed unless the study is an experiment. For those of you who don’t know, a steady is an experiment if participants are randomly assigned (you can’t randomly assign people to having premarital sex or not) and researchers can control the independent variable (in this case premarital sex). Chances are, there is another variable at work here: perhaps those who wait till marriage are less likely to believe in divorce for religious reasons, and therefore less likely to have it?

  21. Goatface Killa says:

    My wife and I both waited until we got married. It was worth it, and I know we’ll always be together because what we have is so much bigger than sex.

  22. TK says:

    what about men or boys?

  23. USMCWife says:

    Me and my husband were both WTM and we made it! All though young, married at 21 and 23, we made it! And reading all of these statistics and comments have made me so glad about our decision. We do have an amazing relationship and we have been able to inspire many of our friends to become WTM. I hope all if you can make your goal a reality as me and my husband did!

  24. Robert Michael says:

    What about in guys? Does it really matter for a guy if he loses his virginity at 16? I think it’s a bigger deal for the girl than it is for a guy. I don’t want to make a mistake and lose it to the wrong person, but I can’t see how it would “change my life forever” and increase my chances for divorce…help please?

  25. KK says:

    I am a 21 year old virgin who is dating a non virgin. I grew up wanting to wait until marriage, but am more unsure now. I still do not feel that I am at all ready, but I need to be able to imagine myself being able to do that with my significant other at some point in the relationship (whether it be until there is a serious commitment or marriage). My boyfriend lost his virginity at 19 about a year ago to an older woman who made him feel pressured into doing it. He was never taught what I was growing up about waiting and how finding the right person to wait for can be important. He found the prior relationship was not what he wanted and never felt entirely comfortable being with his ex in that way. I struggle often with his sexual past, because it is important for me that we are on the same page about important things in our relationship, and I think sex is a very important aspect in the committed romantic relationship. I truly wonder if his sexual past will affect our future. I want to eventually find someone to spend the rest of my life with and everyone who I choose to date is a potential candidate. My boyfriend now sees sex the same way I do, and is happy to wait for me. I just want to know if we were to ever get married, would his sexual past create irresolvable problems, and if so, why?

  26. Taylin says:

    I am 16 and was given the assignment to give a speech in class next week and I chose to speak about abstinence. Right after I chose this topic I felt comfortable and excited about it. As I thought about it more I felt like I was a complete idiot in committing to speak to a class of my peers about waiting for sex. I have been browsing this site and studying it to try to find a way to approach the topic diplomatically but still in a personable way. Reading this site has made me more comfortable with giving this speech even though it will be uncomfortable and a little scary. Anyways I just wanted to say thanks for inspiring me and giving me the courage to go in a room of teens and tell them that abstinence is…good.

  27. Darr says:

    This article gives me the impression that fornication after the age of 18 is harmless. I hate this article! It should have compared the divorce rate of people who stayed chaste until marriage to those that were fornicators.

  28. Donald says:

    This article is very misleading. It talks about if you had premarital sex then you are most likely to get a divorce when you are older. Just because there is a correlation between premarital sex and divorce rates, you can’t automatically make the assumption that premarital sex is the cause. There are many factors that can cause a divorce, such as an abusive relationship, lies, cheating, fiscal problems, closed communication, etc. This article is very helpful to those who are looking for a reason to fight against premarital sex. I do not recommend that people should use this as actual evidence to refute the idea of premarital sex.

  29. Mike says:

    @Donald – Good point, and I agree. I’ve changed the title to “ASSOCIATED WITH Higher Chance of Divorce” instead of “MEANS Higher Chance of Divorce.” Hopefully that’s a little better. I can’t count the number of time I’ve had the whole “correlation does not imply causation” mantra drilled into my head, and yet I still missed this. Thanks for pointing it out and being nice about it!

  30. just my opinion says:

    Like the article!

    It is true that divorces have different reasons but most can be caused by sex before marriage:
    *abuse- can be caused because the abusive partner had bad experience in relationships an there spouse may have done something similar as the person in the relationship that have hurt them.
    *lies- can also be because of a bad relationship experience and trust issues.
    *cheating- can be because of all the different sex partners they had and they have difficulty being with just one partner.
    *lack in communication- because in the sex before the marriage they may have not communicated and when they were not satisfied moved on to the next person without trying to talk out there differences and work for solutions.

    It may not be completely correct but I do believe that sex before marriage can have a big negative influence in marriage.(Love is more important than the sex, learn someone without sex and if you love him/her and believe that you can make a marriage work then I am certain that the sex will be fine and if there is a problem the partners will work on it till it is perfect) :)

  31. Google@MissChristiLuv says:


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