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Changes in the timing of sexual initiation among young Muslim and Christian women in Nigeria
Authors: Agha S.
Source: Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(6):899-908. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9395-0. Epub
Topic(s): First intercourse
Country: Africa
Published: DEC 2009
Abstract: Abstract Sexual initiation during adolescence has important demographic and health consequences for a population, yet no systematic analysis of changes in the timing of sexual initiation has been conducted in Nigeria. Two rounds of national surveys conducted in 1990 and 2003 were used to examine changes in the timing of sexual initiation among female adolescents in Nigeria. Multivariate survival analysis using Cox proportional hazards models was used to assess changes in the risk of sexual initiation and to identify the correlates of first sex. Contrary to what has been reported in several Nigerian studies, there was no decline in age at first sex among Christian adolescents. Age at first sex did not change significantly for Christian adolescents, although premarital sex appears to have increased-primarily due to an increase in the age at marriage. Age at first sex did increase among Muslim women. Premarital sex remained low among Muslim women. A number of socioeconomic variables were associated with the timing of sexual initiation. Weekly exposure to the mass media was associated with earlier sexual initiation. The degree to which an environment was liberal or restrictive was a key determinant of the timing of sexual initiation in Nigeria. The findings also illustrate the important role of socioeconomic factors in determining the timing of sexual initiation in Nigeria. As secondary education increases in Northern Nigeria, additional increases in the age at sexual debut are likely among Muslim women. The study raises concerns about the influence of the mass media on the timing of first sex in Nigeria. The evidence of an absence of changes in the timing of sexual initiation among Christian women in more than a decade implies that programs which aim to delay the timing of sexual initiation in Southern Nigeria may have limited success. With age at marriage already high among Christian women, programs that focus on abstinence until marriage may also be pursuing an approach with limited chances of success.