Children who suffer abuse, including non-sexual abuse, are far more likely to have early sexual intercourse, new research has found.
The University of Maryland study found that at 14 years of age, children with a history of maltreatment other than sexual abuse were 2.15 times more likely to report having had sexual intercourse than teens with no abuse history.
The study also found that 16-year-olds who had suffered physical or psychological abuse or neglect were 2.03 times more likely to have had sex.
Dr. Maureen M. Black of the University of Maryland said: “All types of maltreatment – physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse – increase the risk for emotional distress at age 12 and sexual intercourse by age 14 and 16”.
The study followed children that had been maltreated rather than asking adults to recollect their own past experiences.
The report noted that, “evaluations of young, sexually active adolescents should not be limited to risks of pregnancy and infection but should include a comprehensive psychosocial assessment that addresses the possibility of maltreatment”.
The children were part of the study from the age of 4 as part of The Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN).
It was noted that the particular group analysed had a high level of maltreatment, 79% of children when surveyed at age 14, and 81% at age 16, had a history of maltreatment prior to age 12, and so the results may not be the same for the general population.
Last year, family campaigners commented on new research by the respected Journal of Health Economics into the correlation between depression and early sexual activity.
Dr Trevor Stammers, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said it showed “as closely as we have been able to show so far that there is a genuine link between increased risk of depression and adolescent females engaging in sex.
“My experience is that, for girls, depression, regret and shame are very common.”
Studies have also repeatedly shown that a child is at greater risk of abuse in a broken home compared to a child living with two married parents.