Factors Associated With Early Sexual Experience Among American Indian and Alaska Native Youth



      American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth experience disparities associated with sexual and reproductive health, including early age of sexual initiation. Identifying factors that are most proximally related to early sexual intercourse and that are modifiable through health promotion interventions may help to reduce these disparities. Using a multisystem approach, we assessed individual (biological, psychological, and behavioral), familial, and extrafamilial (peer behavioral) factors associated with lifetime sexual experience among AI/AN early adolescents living in three geographically dispersed U.S. regions.


      We analyzed cross-sectional data from 537 AI/AN youth aged 12–14 years, recruited from 27 study sites in Alaska, Arizona, and the Pacific Northwest. We used multilevel logistic regression models to estimate associations between independent variables and lifetime sexual intercourse (oral and/or vaginal sex) individually, within discrete systems, and across systems.


      The analytical sample was 55.1% female, with a mean age of 13.2 years (standard deviation = 1.06 years); 6.5% were sexually experienced. In the final model, we found that lower next-year intentions to have oral or vaginal sex (psychological factors), avoidance of risky situations, and nonuse of alcohol (behavioral factors) were associated with lower odds of lifetime sexual intercourse (all p ≤ .01). No other variables were significantly associated with lifetime sexual intercourse.


      Interventions that reduce sexual intentions, exposure to risky situations, and alcohol use may help to delay sexual initiation among AI/AN early adolescents.


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