‘Troubled girls from poor neighbourhood tend to be promiscuous’

September 16th, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Sep 16 (IANS) Young but troubled girls living in poor neighbourhoods tend to become promiscuous, engaging in sex with older boys, according to a study. “Young girls… in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are more likely to initiate sex… especially those young women with conduct problems,” said co-author Véronique Dupéré, post-doctoral fellow at Tufts University, who completed the research at Université de Montréal.

Conduct problems were self-reported in late childhood or when participants were 10 or 11 years old. Risky behaviours included physical aggression like bullying, fighting, kicking, destructive tendencies like vandalism, stealing and violation of rules like running away, and staying out all night.

Subjects were considered to have conduct problems if they had engaged in three at-risk behaviours over one year. Of the sample, 13 percent were considered to have conduct problems.

Dupéré also found that teen girls from poor neighbourhoods with a history of conduct problems were more likely to associate with deviant peers and to be initiated into sex by males that were three years older or more.

“Girls with a history of conduct problems were found to be more likely to have deviant and older male friends when they lived in a disadvantaged context,” said Dupéré.

“Deviant peers are thought to provide a pool of willing partners and cultivate a sense that early sexual activity is desirable.”

For this study, the research team used a sub-sample of boys and girls from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. A total of 2,596 Canadian adolescents were followed from the ages of 12 to 15 and quarter of these participants were found to live in poor neighbourhoods.

Besides neighbourhood and peer characteristics, family characteristics were also considered, including socio-economic background and family structure.

The large majority of study participants were white. “Among this group, peer characteristics were found to represent a crucial factor for explaining why at-risk girls living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are more likely to initiate sex early,” said Éric Lacourse, co-author of the study and Université de Montréal sociology professor.

“During adolescence, peers exert significant influences on different aspects of adolescent behaviour and our study results show that sexuality is no exception,” added Dupéré.

“By identifying young adolescents who are particularly at-risk, this study provides valuable insights for future intervention efforts,” added Dupéré.

The research was published in Child Development.

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