Association of Sexual Abstinence in Adolescence with Mental Health in Adulthood

Published In: Journal of Sex Research, v. 44, no. 3, Aug. 2007, p. 290-291

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2007

by Laura M. Bogart, Rebecca L. Collins, Phyllis L. Ellickson, David J. Klein

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The authors examined whether adolescent sexual abstinence predicts better adult mental health. 1,917 adolescents, recruited from middle schools at age 13, were surveyed at ages 13, 18, 23, and 29. In bivariate analyses, adolescent sexual abstinence was associated with better mental health at age 29 for females, but not males; three adolescent factors, educational prospects, family bonding, and unconventionality were investigated as explanatory variables of this relationship. The abstinence-mental health relationship was nonsignificant when educational prospects was included in multivariate models, and marginally significant when family bonding and unconventionality were included; all three explanatory factors accounted for significant proportions of the variance in adult mental health. Girls who are uninvolved in school, have weak family backgrounds, and exhibit unconventionality may have poor adult mental health, whether or not they abstain from sex in adolescence. Interventions that strengthen adolescents' connections to families and schools may reduce risk for long-term mental health problems.

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