UI Study Examines Link Between Teen Sex and Divorce Rate
By Jillian Petrus, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Career, money, love lost - there are plenty of reasons why a marriage can end in divorce.
But what about the first time you had sex? Could this be what ends a marriage years later?
"Relationships don't end because you were sexually active at a young age," said Angela Boren, a single mother. "I think they end for various reasons."
New research from the University of Iowa suggests the age a woman experiences sex for the first time does make a difference down the road. Or rather, after she walks down the aisle.
Dr. Anthony Paik recently conducted a study on the matter.
He found 31 percent of women who had sex for the first time as teens divorced within five years after marrying. 47 percent divorced within 10 years.
The divorce rate for women who delayed sex until adulthood decreased dramatically.
"I know a lot of girls who have lost their virginity at young ages," said Jessica Butterfield, of Cedar Rapids. "I don't know about them getting married, but a lot of them have had children."
Women who had sex before the age of 16 were more likely to get divorced. Unwanted sex at a young age doubled the chance of a failed marriage, and only a small percent of women who had sex before 18 said it's something they really wanted to do.
"They may well have sacrificed something that they would have preferred to have experienced," said family psychologist Dr. Don Damsteegt, of Family Psychology Associates.
Damsteegt said this is not the first study to link teen sex to divorce. He says the study tries to show one impact of how a person experiences love at an early age.
"If they haven't had that, they may orient towards sex as a way to feel close to somebody," he said. "They may also learn to separate sex from love."
Damsteegt said this could set the stage for failed marriages in the future, and it's one reason why Angela Boren said she'll talk about sex with her child sooner, rather than later.
"I will be very open with my children about it, just because I know these days kids are sexually active at a younger age," Boren said.
Dr. Anthony Paik said the survey did control for other variables that might lead to a divorce. He said he recognizes there are a lot of other factors that can cause divorce, but he believes teenage sex is definitely one thing to consider.
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