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The Harmful Effects of Early Sexual Activity and Multiple Sexual Partners Among Women: A Book of Charts

Early initiation of sexual activity and higher numbers of non-marital sex partners are linked in turn to a wide variety of negative life outcomes, including increased rates of infection with sexually transmitted diseases, increased rates of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and birth, increased single parenthood, decreased marital stability, increased maternal and child poverty, increased abortion, increased depression, and decreased happiness.

This report examines the linkages between early initiation of sexual activity, number of nonmarital sex partners, and human well-being. In general, the earlier a woman begins sexual activity, the greater the number of non-marital sex partners she is likely to have over the course of her life.

Open the Book of Charts (pdf)


The study is based on the National Survey of Family Growth, a survey fielded in 1995 to a nationally representative sample of roughly 10,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, sponsored and funded by the Centers for Disease Control of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Because men are not included in the NSFG, they are not included anywhere in this report.

[Robert E. Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., Lauren R. Noyes, Shannan Martin, Executive Summary, June 26, 2003, Heritage Foundation]