Waiting longer to have sex tied to more wealth, education and relationship happiness

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Here's some more reasons why teens should wait to have sex: A recent study shows that people who were over the age of 19 when they first had sexual intercourse were more likely to have higher educational levels and higher household income.

In addition, out of those who had gotten married or were living with a partner by the end of the study, the people who had sex later in life reported less unhappiness in their relationship than their peers who had sex earlier.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of over 6,300 teens and young adults conducted between July 2007 to June 2010 showed that 47 percent of females between the ages of 15 and 19 and 44 percent of males had vaginal intercourse. Between the ages 20 to 24, the number increased to 87 percent of females and 85 percent of males. Planned Parenthood reports that the average age males and female have sex are 17.

To see how having sex earlier or later impacted teens later in life, assistant professor of psychology at The University of Texas in Austin Dr. Paige Harden, and her team looked at data from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. The responses came from 1659 same-sex sibling pairs, and they responded to the surveys beginning around the time they were 16 years old until they were about 29.

The subjects were broken down into groups depending on when they had sex: early (younger than 15), "on-time" (16 to 18) or late (19 and older).

People who had sex later were also less likely to be married by the age of 29 and had fewer romantic partners than those who had sex earlier.

All the findings stayed true even when adult educational attainment, income or religiousness and adolescent differences in dating involvement, body mass index, or attractiveness were taken into account.

There were no major differences between the results of the early and on-time sexual group.

Harden explained in a press release that it is possible people who delay to have sex may have a more secure attachment style, the healthiest form of attachment. These people tended to be okay with being separated from their parents as children, but had no problem coming to them when they need help. This means they could be pickier in choosing sexual and romantic partners and only enter into relationships that they feel will be worth it in the long run.

She also said that it's possible that people who had sex later were able to avoid earlier sexual encounters that may have had more aggression or victimization. Previous relationships always play a role in future experiences, Harden pointed out.

Another theory that may explain why people who waited longer were found to be happier,  is that those who are older when they have sex were more mature and capable of having a serious relationship compared to those who are younger.

"Individuals who first navigate intimate relationships in young adulthood, after they have accrued cognitive and emotional maturity, may learn more effective relationship skills than individuals who first learn scripts for intimate relationships while they are still teenagers," she said in a press release.

The study first appeared online in late September 2012 in Psychological Science.

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