November 14, 2008 | Special Report on Family and Marriage
This paper provides a systematic review of the research literature examining the relationship between family structure and adolescent sexual activity. Adolescents from intact family structures tend to delay sexual initiation until a significantly older age than their peers from non-intact family backgrounds. Adolescents from intact families are less likely to have ever had sexual intercourse, have had on average fewer sexual partners, are less likely to report a sexually transmitted disease, and are less likely to have ever experienced a pregnancy or live birth when compared to their peers from non-intact families. However, the effects of family structure on all adolescent sexual outcomes other than sexual debut tend to operate primarily through the delay in sexual debut experienced by adolescents from intact families. Age, race, and gender differences are discussed, as well as methodological challenges associated with the study of family structure and adolescent sexual outcomes.