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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 199855 Find in a Library
Title: College Women Who Had Sexual Intercourse When They Were Underage Minors (13-15): Age of Their Male Partners, Relation to Current Adjustment, and Statutory Rape Implications
Journal: Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment  Volume:15  Issue:2  Dated:April 2003  Pages:135-147
Author(s): Harold Leitenberg; Heidi Saltzman
Date Published: April 2003
Page Count: 13
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Netherlands
Annotation: This study surveyed female college students to determine their age when they first had intercourse and the age of their male partner at the time, and its relation to their current psychological adjustment.
Abstract: Prompted by statistics that reveal the majority of fathers of children born to teenage girls are adults, the U.S. Congress has urged States to aggressively enforce statutory rape laws in an effort to reduce teenage pregnancy. However, methodological problems exist in studies that indicated that most girls who have sex between the ages of 13 and 15 do so with much older men. In fact, subsequent research has suggested that the age difference for most young sexually active teenagers is less than 5 years. As such, more stringent enforcement of statutory rape laws would result in the prosecution of many young male teenagers as sexual offenders. Given the gravity of this outcome, more research regarding age at first intercourse and psychological implications of early intercourse is called for. In the current study, the authors presented an anonymous questionnaire on “sexual experience” to 1,439 female college students enrolled in an introductory psychology course at the University of Vermont. Participation was voluntary and there was an 85 percent response rate. Results indicated that contrary to previous assumptions, the majority of male partners of girls who first had sexual intercourse between the ages of 13 and 15 were not substantially older than them. Most male partners were 2 to 4 years older or had less than a 2 year age difference with their female partner. Furthermore, results of the psychological portion of the questionnaire revealed that a partner’s age difference was not significantly associated with current levels of psychological distress. Perhaps not surprisingly, women who had sexual intercourse at age 13 reported more current symptoms of psychological distress than did women who initiated sexual intercourse at ages 14 or 15. The implications of this study suggest that if States pursue more aggressive prosecutions of statutory rape laws, a large number of young male teenagers will be prosecuted as sexual offenders. In conclusion, the authors suggest that statutory rape laws be enforced with considerable caution and discretion to avoid criminalizing a large segment of relatively common teenage sexual behavior. Tables, references
Main Term(s): Sexual behavior
Index Term(s): Age group comparisons; Statutory rape
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