1.1 Article Details
A steady trend towards earlier sexual intercourse is now well documented. However the relationship of this development to trends in other early sexual formative experiences has not been explored nor has there has been an analysis of the longer term of the behavioural consequences. The data examined in this paper were drawn from a two-stage national survey of sexual lifestyles on a representative sample of 2361 adult New Zealanders between the ages of 18-54. Techniques of survival analysis and multiple logistic regression were used. Over time, there was a consistent decline and diminishing gap in age of onset for first experience, first intercourse, and first regular partnership. Multivariate analysis confirms that males, the young, less educated, ethnic minorities and respondents professing no religious affiliations were all more likely to report earlier onset of sexual experiences. However, while all three socio-sexual events showed the same trend, pre-intercourse experiences exerted the strongest influence on subsequent sexual practices and outcomes. This has implications for preventative strategies.
The objective of this study is to describe the sequence of initiation into early sexual activity and partnering and to analyse the behavioural consequences of this process.
This study was carried out as part of The New Zealand Partner Relations Survey (PRS) funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand in 1991. PRS is modelled based on a protocol that is being developed by the World Health Organisation’s global programme on AIDS (GPA). It is a two stage stratified national survey where households in New Zealand are selected at random using random digit-dialling (RDD) with a single eligible interviewee per selected household, followed by a subsample survey of non-contacts and refusals to determine eligibility. A 15 minute questionnaire based on (GPA) is administered using computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) to a nationally representative sample of 2361 respondents between the age of 18-54. Questionnaire items presented in the paper are grouped into three categories: contextual precursors (socio-demographic and cultural background factors), socio-sexual development (measures of early sexual activity and partnership), and behavioural consequences (reported sexual practices and outcomes).
The study confirms a steady trend towards earlier sexual experience and a rapid progress to a long term sexual partnership. Those that engage in early pre-intercourse sexual experience are twice as likely to report a greater number of partners, anal sex, same gender sex, and STD in their later life. If the trend carries on, this has clear implications towards future risk behaviours and related risk profiles. These implications also affect preventative strategies which are currently in place. For example, preventative strategies must be communicated at an earlier age with a different focus in order to educate the public who are to be sexually active. As a result, these strategies will potentially need to be altered to accommodate for the consequences of early pre-intercourse sexual experiences. In regards to the reliability and validity of the data, a number of methodological issues also have to be taken into account. Firstly, even though the findings conform to other literature regarding patterns of early sexual activity and partnership in Western Europe and North America, due to the relatively small population of New Zealand and thus smaller sample size, it is uncertain that such results can be generalised to other parts of the world. Secondly, it is important to note that as the survey was conducted via telephone, it follows that only people with telephones could be interviewed (frame errors). However, given that 95% of the population had a telephone at the time the study was conducted and little discrepancies of results were found between the telephone interviews and face to face interviews on health related topics implies that differences which do arise within the study are not detrimental to the findings. And finally, despite the sensitivity of the topic, the study provides and demonstrates acceptable quality of the data as the overall non response in the survey was less than one percent and not more than five percent for the most sensitive questions.