Journal Article

Timing of first sex before marriage and its correlates: Evidence from India

While several studies have documented the extent of pre-marital sexual experience among young people in India, little work has been done to explore the factors that are correlated with the timing of pre-marital sexual initiation. This paper examines age at initiation of pre-marital sex, circumstances in which first sex was experienced, nature of first sexual experience and correlates of age at initiation of pre-marital sex. Life table estimates suggest that pre-marital sexual initiation occurred in adolescence for 1 in 20 young women and 1 in 10 young men. For the majority of these young people, their first sex was with an opposite-sex romantic partner. First sex, moreover, was unprotected for the majority and forced for sizeable proportion of young women. A number of individual, family-, peer- and community-level factors were correlated with age at first pre-marital sex. Moreover, considerable gender differences were apparent in the correlates of age at first pre-marital sex, with peer- and parent-level factors found more often to be significant for young women than men.