Do Perceptions of Friends’ Behaviors Affect Age at First Sex? Evidence from Cebu, Philippines
Ushma D. Upadhyay, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Michelle J. Hindin, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
This study explores the effect and timing of perceptions of friends’ romantic and physical behaviors on adolescent sexual activity. Using data from 1,943 adolescents collected in 1998-2000 and 2002 in Cebu, Philippines, survival analyses assessed whether adolescents’ perceptions of friends’ sexual behaviors, as measured at ages 14 to 16, increased the hazard of having first intercourse by ages 17 to 19. Adolescents who perceived that their friends ever engaged in sexual behaviors were significantly more likely to be engaging in that behavior by ages 17 to 19. For each additional behavior an adolescent perceived his or her friends to be engaging in, the hazard of having sex at an earlier age increased by 1.15 (p<0.02) among boys and 1.19 (p<0.002) among girls even after adjusting for mother’s disapproval of premarital sex and other factors. These results show the important role of peers in light of competing influences in adolescents’ lives.