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Article
April 2006

Television Viewing and Risk of Sexual Initiation by Young Adolescents

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (Drs Ashby and Edmonson), and Department of Population Health Sciences (Dr Arcari), University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(4):375-380. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.4.375
Abstract

Objective  To determine if television viewing is associated with the risk of initiating sexual intercourse in young adolescents.

Design  Secondary analysis of data obtained from 1994 through 1996.

Setting  The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Participants  The 4808 students younger than 16 years who had not initiated intercourse before baseline interview.

Exposures  Primary exposure was self-reported daily television watching, categorized as low (<2 hours) or high (≥2 hours) use. Secondary exposure was parental regulation of television programming watched.

Main Outcome Measure  Odds ratio for initiating intercourse by 1-year follow-up, adjusted for potential confounders.

Results  At baseline, 2414 (48.8%) subjects watched television 2 or more hours per day. By 1-year follow-up, 791 (15.6%) subjects had initiated intercourse. Sexual initiation was associated with high television use (adjusted odds ratio, 1.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-1.79) and lack of parental regulation of television programming (adjusted odds ratio, 1.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-1.80). Most subjects (73.8%) reported strong parental disapproval of sex; their overall rate of initiation was 12.5%, and their risk was independently associated with high television use (adjusted odds ratio, 1.72; 95% confidence interval, 1.24-2.40) and lack of parental regulation of television programming (adjusted odds ratio, 1.35; 95% confidence interval, 1.01-1.81). Among adolescents who did not report strong parental disapproval, the rate of sexual initiation was higher (24.1%) but unrelated to television use.

Conclusion  Among young adolescents who reported strong parental disapproval of sex, watching television 2 or more hours per day and lack of parental regulation of television programming were each associated with increased risk of initiating sexual intercourse within a year.

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