Family Breakdown Issues

Adolescents Who Have had 4 or More Sexual Partners, by Family Structure and Religious Participation

New research has shown that the probability of adolescents (ages 13-19) having four or more sexual partners within a year is less likely among those who were raised in “intact families that attended religious services weekly or more.”

The data was derived from a study where participants were asked to respond to the question, “Since January 1, with how many people in total have you had a sexual relationship?” as well as questions regarding their attendance to religious services.

In total, the study found that adolescents were least likely to have four or more sexual partners in the last year when they were raised in intact (i.e. married parents) families who attended religious services once or more per week — 4.4%.

The study found that 5.6% of teens in intact families with no regular religious services had four or more sexual partners in the last year, while 11.3% of teens in non-intact (divorced, cohabiting, single parent) families who attended religious services regularly, and 14.0% of teens in non-intact families who did not attend religious services, responded that they had four or more sexual partners in the last year.

To read more about the Marriage & Religion Research Institute study and it’s finding, you can check it out at  http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA15H01

Family Structure: Adolescents were least likely to have had four or more sexual partners in the past year when raised in intact married families (5.9%).

Teens raised in married step-families were more likely to have had four or more sexual partners (9.9%), as were those in intact cohabiting families (11.7%), single-divorced-parent families (11.9%), and cohabiting step-families (15.8%).

Comparatively, adolescents raised in cohabiting step-families were more than twice as likely as those raised in intact married families to have had four or more sexual partners (15.8% versus 5.9%, respectively).

Religious Worship: Thirteen-to-nineteen-year-olds who attended religious services weekly or more were least likely to have had four or more sexual partners in the past year (6.3%). Adolescents who never attended church and adolescents who attended less than once a week were more likely to have four or more sexual partners: there was almost no statistical difference between the two (8.8% verse 8.9% respectively).

Family Structure and Religious Worship Combined: Adolescents were least likely to have four or more sexual partners in the past year when raised in intact worshipping families (4.4%).

Teens raised in intact non-worshipping families were more likely to have four or more sexual partners (5.6%), as were those in non-intact worshipping families (11.3%) and non-intact non-worshiping families (14%).

Comparatively, those from non-intact non-worshiping families were more than three times as likely to have four or more sexual partners as those raise in an intact worshiping family (14% versus 4.4% respectively).

Related Insights from Other Studies:

Research shows that adolescent girls living in intact married families have the fewest number of sexual partners prior to marriage of any family structure (on average 0.71 sexual partners).[2]

Research also shows that adolescents from intact married families have the fewest number of sexual partners, principally due to the effect of intact family structure on delaying sexual debut.[3]

Religious worship also plays a role in premarital sexual activity. According to the Relationships in America Survey, those who are married and attending religious service weekly are 31% less likely to have had premarital sex than those who are married and have never attended religious service.[4]

[1]The data come from Wave 1 of the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Respondents were asked to respond to the question “Since January 1, with how many people in total have you had a sexual relationship?” Their answers choices were to give a specific number or to answer “refused,” “legitimate skip,” “don’t know,” or “not applicable.”

[2] Patrick F. Fagan, “Family Structure and Sexual Intercourse Partners–Adolescent Girls.” MARRI, Available at http://marri.us/get.cfm?i=MA08E04

[3] Samuel W. Sturgeon, “The Relationship between Family Structure and Adolescent Sexual Activity” The Heritage Foundation (November 2008): 13. Available at http://www.familyfacts.org/featuredfinding/ff_01.pdf.

[4] The Austin Institute of the Study of Family and Culture, “Relationships in America Survey,” The Austin Institute of the Study of Family and Culture, (2014) http://relationshipsinamerica.com/relationships-and-sex/how-common-is-premarital-sex.

[National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health Wave 1, Ages 13-19; Abstinence Clearinghouse, 19 Aug 2015]