The Relationship Between Family Structure and Sexual Activity

by Samuel W. Sturgeon

This paper provides a systematic review of the research literature examining the relationship between family structure and adolescent sexual activity.

Talking Points

  • Adolescents from intact family structures tend to delay sexual initiation until a significantly older age than their peers from non-intact family backgrounds.
  • Adolescents from intact families are less likely to have ever had sexual intercourse, have had on average fewer sexual partners, are less likely to report a sexually transmitted disease, and are less likely to have ever experienced a pregnancy or live birth when compared to their peers from non-intact families.
  • The effects of family structure on all adolescent sexual outcomes other than sexual debut tend to operate primarily through the delay in sexual debut experienced by adolescents from intact families.