Examining sexual initiation patterns and links to adult relationship histories


Glick, Gary C. & Halpern, Carolyn Tucker (2016). Examining sexual initiation patterns and links to adult relationship histories. 2016 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


A burgeoning research literature has begun to examine how specific characteristics of initiation into partnered sexual behavior (e.g., timing, spacing, sequencing) predict concurrent and prospective adjustment. Using restricted-use Add Health data from Waves I and IV (N = 11,991), we examined whether five distinct sexual initiation patterns, identified using Latent Class Analysis, are associated with a variety of adult relationship outcomes. Multinomial logistic regression, controlling for relevant socio-demographic covariates (e.g., race, SES, family structure), was employed in all analyses. Contrary to expectations, we found no evidence to suggest that early or atypical sexual initiation patterns are linked to potentially problematic romantic relationship histories (e.g., having a child with a non-residential partner, serial cohabitation). In contrast, postponement of sexual initiation well into adulthood and beyond statistical norms (Mage = 21.7), was associated with drastically reduced odds of reporting romantic histories that carry the most potential to disrupt other life domains. Respondents who postpone sexual initiation also may be adhering to more traditional relationship scripts (e.g., less likely to cohabit prior to marriage, fewer sleepovers at each other’s residences per week) and may enter into significant relationship milestones, such as marriage, at an accelerated rate. Implications for theories of emerging adult development will be discussed.



Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2016 Add Health Users Conference


Glick, Gary C.
Halpern, Carolyn Tucker

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID